restricted access Alvear and the Attempted Establishment of An Institutionalized Relationship with Labor, 1922–1928
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6 6 alvear and the attempted establishment of an institutionalized relationship with labor, 1922–1928 The Alvear administration is usually viewed as much more conservative than that of Yrigoyen. This assumption is largely based on the charges made by his contemporary opponents. His administration has been little studied. For example, Félix Luna in his biography of Alvear spends just twelve pages out of over three hundred on his presidency.1 Some aspects of Alvear’s labor policies resembled those of Yrigoyen, and where they differed, they were not always more conservative. The Anti-Personalists seemed motivated more by opposition to Yrigoyen’s control of the party than by policy disagreements. They remained Radicals and shared with their rivals a major motivating force, a constant search for votes. Neither the Anti-Personalists nor the Personalists had clearly defined ideas about labor. The Alvear administration did appear more comfortable with large, centralized unions that worked well with the government. The idea was to assist in the creation of organizations that would trade labor peace for material improvements for their members. The unions would also hopefully serve as a bridge to the working class and help obtain votes. The administration’s efforts, while failing to obtain votes for the AntiPersonalists , served as a model for at least a generation. As we have seen, the other major attempt to influence the working class under Alvear was the enactment of the pension law, 11.289. The Alvear administration’s approach to labor was less personal than that of the two 1. Luna, Alvear. PAGE 149 ................. 16996$ $CH6 10-03-08 08:39:21 PS 150 argentina’s radical party and popular mobilization, 1916–1930 Yrigoyen governments. Although cabinet members and Alvear met with union delegations, the administration preferred to use bureaucratic channels . The impact of the routinization of negotiations can be seen in the uproar created in 1929 and 1930 when Yrigoyen returned to personal intervention in labor conflicts.2 One stereotype of the Alvear government does hold true. Individual cabinet members had a major impact. Little coordination of policy within the government existed. The government’s attitude toward the railroad unions turned more favorable in early 1925 when Roberto M. Ortiz became minister of public works. Other ministers, such as Naval Minister Admiral Manuel Domecq Garcı́a, took a decided antilabor stance on the waterfront at the same time that government allies attempted to build support among port workers. The lack of coordination made the Anti-Personalists ’ search for support almost impossible. Railroads A key area where we can see the Anti-Personalist interest in labor is the railroad industry. Starting in 1925, the government played a crucial role in helping the Unión Ferroviaria (uf) become a powerful union. The willingness of the Anti-Personalists to do this should not be surprising. As Paul Goodwin has shown, the Alvear administration was willing to be tougher on the British rail companies in setting freight rates than was the second Yrigoyen administration.3 Helping a union such as what the uf became— one that helped keep the peace on the rail network and that had the potential to help make the administration popular among sectors of the working class—was an obvious if somewhat daring strategy. The uf tried to steer clear of politics, which meant that it could cooperate with almost any government that was willing to cooperate with it. When numerous committees of railroaders were created to rally support for the reelection of Yrigoyen, the executive committees of La Fraternidad and the uf felt compelled to issue a joint statement calling for political neutrality.4 During the 1920s, the uf’s executive board was split between Syndicalists and Socialists. For most of the leadership, the union was more important than ideology. Antonio Tramonti, the secretary-general during 2. La Prensa, July 8, August 4, 23, 1929. 3. Goodwin, Los ferrocarriles británicos, 270–85. 4. La Epoca, July 16, 1927–March 12, 1928; La Confederación, December 1927. PAGE 150 ................. 16996$ $CH6 10-03-08 08:39:21 PS alvear and the attempted relationship with labor, 1922–1928 151 the 1920s, was a Syndicalist who quarreled with the Syndicalist-dominated confederation, the usa. During a negotiating session with the railroads, Tramonti said, ‘‘The other day Dr. Videla referred to a French Socialist who, he said, was more advanced than we are. I replied that we are not Socialists, and if some are, we do not take it into account...


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