Home > Americas, Economics, Latin America > Cerámica de Cuyo: A Profile of Worker Control in Argentina

Cerámica de Cuyo: A Profile of Worker Control in Argentina

Benjamin Dangl writes on ZNet:

In the worn out meeting room of worker-run Cerámica de Cuyo, Manuel Rojas runs a rough hand over his face. The mechanic recalls forming the cooperative after the company boss fired the workers in 2000: “We didn’t have any choice. If we didn’t take over the factory we would all be in the streets. The need to work pushed us to action.”

After working at the ceramic brick and tile factory for nearly 35 years, Rojas joined the other two dozen workers at Cerámica de Cuyo and began to organize into a cooperative. These workers were part of national movement at a time when Argentina was in an economic crisis. Across the country, hundreds of factories, businesses and hotels shut their doors and sent their employees packing. Many workers, like those at Cerámica de Cuyo, decided to take matters into their own hands. As the stories of these workers illustrate, the cooperatively-run road hasn’t been easy.

Cerámica de Cuyo is surrounded by vineyards and artists’ homes in the bohemian community of Bermejo, Argentina , right outside Mendoza. Dust blows around the sun burnt factory yard as I sit down with Rojas and his co-worker Francisco Avila. Rojas wears a weathered blue plaid shirt while Avila has a baseball cap resting on a head of gray hair. We’re in the Cerámica de Cuyo meeting room. The ancient chairs have crumbling foam cushions. Phone numbers and Che Guevara slogans are scrawled on the walls. It’s easy to sense the wear and tear that lifetimes of labor have had on the place.

In August of 1999, the Cerámica de Cuyo owner cut wages. Though he promised it was only temporary, the lack of money pushed many employees to search for work elsewhere. Some left the country in desperation. “The boss kept promising money, so we waited,” Rojas says. “We worked on weekends, waiting and waiting, but no paychecks arrived. We had to support our families, pay the bills and everything.” In February, 2000, all the workers were fired. A year later they decided to form a cooperative and run the factory themselves.

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