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During the 1990s, governments, employers, and international agencies pressed for greater flexibility in labor regulations throughout much of Latin America. In this comparative study of six Latin American countries, Maria Lorena Cook shows why these common pressures for flexibility led to varied labor reform outcomes. Her examination of the role of organized labor in shaping reform highlights the conditions under which labor can still wield power despite a decline in overall strength.
Cook employs historical case studies and paired comparisons to analyze the political dynamics that led to moderate levels of labor reform in Argentina and Brazil, extensive change in Chile and Peru, and no reform in Mexico and Bolivia. Her book identifies the array of factors—labor movement strategies, democratization and economic opening, international pressures, legal frameworks, and political legacies—that determine whether labor reforms are more likely to stress flexibility or rights.