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Mexico: Organized Labor
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Institutions of Civil Society > Organized Labor


Labor unions are mostly representative of workers in urban areas. Most labor unions are affiliated with the PRI through the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Mexicanos -- CTM), which is associated with some independent unions and federations in an umbrella organization known as the Congress of Labor (Congreso del Trabajo -- CT). During August 1991, the CT confirmed its direct relationship with the government party in a document called the Political Agreement Between the PRI and the Organization of the CT.

The CT, considered the labor sector of the PRI, consists of more than thirty organizations encompassing 85 percent of the unionized workforce. In the early 1990s, Mexico had an estimated 9.5 million unionized workers. The CT mediates between the labor unions and the government. At the same time, it provides the state with a formal mechanism for political manipulation of the labor force.

The CTM is the largest and most influential organization in the CT, comprising over 11,000 labor unions with more than 5 million union members. It is considered the spearhead of the Mexican labor movement. Since 1941 the CTM has been tightly controlled by its secretary general, Fidel Velázquez, considered one of the most influential political figures in Mexico.

The second organization within the CT is the Federation of Unions of Workers in the Service of the State (Federación de Sindicatos de Trabajadores al Servicio del Estado -- FSTSE). The FSTSE was established in 1938 as an umbrella organization for labor unions within the federal civil system and other government-related organizations. In 1990 the FSTSE consisted of eighty-nine unions with a total membership of 1.8 million employees.

The Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (Confederación Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos -- CROC) is the third largest labor organization within the CT. The CROC was established in 1952; since 1980, it has been under the leadership of Alberto Juárez Blancas. During the 1990s, the CROC had an estimated membership of some 600,000. Other important labor organizations are the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación Regional de Obreros Mexicanos -- CROM), the National Federation of Independent Unions (Federación Nacional de Sindicatos Independientes -- FNSI), the Confederation of Workers and Peasants (Confederación de Trabajadores y Campesinos -- CTC), the International Proletarian Movement (Movimiento Proletario Internacional -- MPI), the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers (Confederación de Obreros Revolucionarios -- COR), the General Confederation of Workers (Confederación General de Trabajadores -- CGT), the Authentic Labor Front (Frente Auténtico del Trabajo -- FAT), and the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers (Confederación Revolucionaria de Trabajadores -- CRT). There are, in addition, some 1.5 million members of independent unions and company labor organizations.

In theory, labor-management relations are well defined by the Labor Code, which leaves little margin for bargaining in labor disputes. All labor unions receive official recognition by applying to the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare. Once it is officially recognized, a union is protected by the Labor Code, which details the rights of each official organization to receive social security payments, to participate in profit sharing, and to use meeting halls, among many other benefits. The code stipulates that strikes are illegal if unauthorized by the secretariat and that workers participating in an illegal strike will be subject to government sanctions and dismissal by their employers.

Corruption, paternalism, and abuse of union funds have traditionally been rampant in the labor movement. In recent years, however, the traditional oligarchic leadership of most Mexican labor unions has been challenged by the rank and file, as well as by independent unions wishing to end the use of leadership positions to amass wealth and power. The lack of support for Salinas's presidential bid by the leadership of some powerful unions, in particular that of the union of oil workers, contributed to a change in government relations with union groups. President Salinas launched an anticorruption campaign during his first year in government, toppling from power strong labor leaders in corruption-related scandals. Although the level of corruption and abuse of power has not been substantially reduced, the political relationship and corporatist structure between the labor sector and the party are currently undergoing profound changes. There is a sharp distinction between two clashing forces in the labor movement: the traditional leadership that forcefully resists political change and a new generation that strongly supports the government's neoliberal policies currently in place. In the mid-1990s, labor groups have less impact on Mexican politics than they did in the past.

Last Updated: June 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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