From the Dream of Change to the Nightmare of Structural Weakness: The Trajectory of Egypt’s Independent Trade Union Movement After 2011
The chapter analyzes the trajectory of Egypt’s independent trade union movement, focusing on developments since the 2011 revolution. In order to explain why the movement proved unable to establish itself as a significant player in the post-uprising context and make its demands heard in the political arena, the chapter particularly discusses structural and institutional features, namely, the movement’s socioeconomic base and its organizational structure, as well as its collective action frame. The main argument put forward in this chapter is that workers’ protests, even if they have remained surprisingly high after the increase in repression since Morsi’s ouster in July 2013, are scattered and largely take place at the local or factory level. This is so because the rise of new forms of labor mobilization in Egypt has led to an institutionally fragmented, organizationally weak and only partially representative movement which, at the national level, lacks the capacity to mobilize workers and/or exert significant political influence. In addition, the new trade union movement’s predominant collective action frame is characterized by narrow and issue-specific economic claims—a frame that reflects and reinforces both the movement’s internal structural weakness and its external lack of reliable sociopolitical allies.
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