Trade Unions and North Africa's Arab Spring
What role did trade unions play in the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings of 2010/2011? This talk challenges the predominant assumption in research on trade unions and democratization rule, namely that trade unions are necessarily driven by material interests or by the defence of their members' interests in such scenarios. Instead,I argue that in some cases, especially under authoritarian regimes with highly restrictive labor legislation, unions may be, by design, incapable of defending workers’ interests. I refer to these types of unions as ‘unions minus’ (Egypt). In other cases, unions may occasionally champion agendas that transcend workers’ interests. I refer to these types of unions as ‘unions plus’ (Tunisia). In both scenarios, ‘unions’ are transformed into qualitatively different types of actors than is conventionally assumed in the scholarship on unions and transitions.