In This Review

The Politics of Labor Reform in Latin America: Between Flexibility and Rights
The Politics of Labor Reform in Latin America: Between Flexibility and Rights
By Maria Lorena Cook
Penn State University Press, 2006, 216 pp
Purchase

Readers with an economic bent will be frustrated with a dissection of national labor codes in Latin America that offers neither numbers nor theory to gauge the impact of labor union strength on wages, employment, and competitiveness, even as the author takes it as an article of faith that market-oriented reforms are dangerous to workers' well-being. Nevertheless, Cook, who teaches in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, has produced a valuable, comprehensive compendium of contemporary reforms of labor codes -- as they amend the powers of unions and alter the bargaining clout of employers versus individual workers -- in six Latin American nations. Her basic thesis is unassailable: far from being merely a technical matter, labor-market reforms are eminently political, and the outcome in each case will be determined by both preexisting institutions and the overall political context, including the muscle of organized labor. Looking to the future, Cook is cautiously hopeful that the shift toward the left in some countries and the heightened visibility of the International Labor Organization might augur well for labor rights -- both collective and individual -- in Latin America.