[Excerpt] This essay will look at the evolution of Mexican trade unions' strategies in response to changes in their political-economic environment over a period of nearly twenty-five years. The purpose of the essay is to determine which factors proved most important in shaping trade union responses to environmental changes over time, and to note how the recent economic opening and regional integration represented by NAFTA have thus far affected and are likely to affect in the future labor unions' capacity to respond to such challenges. The Mexican case is of special importance in the Latin American context due to the implementation of NAFTA, the rapid and extensive recent opening of the Mexican economy, and the likelihood that Mexico's relationship with the U.S. will sharpen the effects of free trade for Mexico relative to other countries in the hemisphere that engage in regional free trade agreements. For these reasons, what happens to Mexican trade unions under NAFTA will be closely watched by labor movements in the rest of the hemisphere.
This essay will disaggregate trade union strategies in Mexico in the recognition that multiple strategic currents have emerged over time and have often conflicted and competed with each other. Understanding what gives rise to these different currents, and why they succeed or fail under different economic and political environments, helps us to understand better both how strategic options emerge and what determines trade unions' capacity to choose among these options. These issues in turn can give us a better sense of what strategic choices trade unions may have available to them in a global environment which is largely recognized as hostile to labor unions.