Federation of Mexican Labor (CTM)

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Federation of Mexican Labor (CTM)

This major Mexican union organization was founded on February 25, 1936, during Lázaro Cárdenas's presidency (1934–1940). The CTM is Mexico's most influential, government-coopted labor federation. Originally it consisted of the National Chamber of Labor, the General Federation of Workers and Peasants of Mexico, the Mexican Unified Labor Federation, and important industrial unions such as those in mining, electrical, and petroleum industries. Initially headed by Vicente Lombardo Toledano, an important intellectual and socialist, the union's leadership was taken over by one of the original founders, Fidel Velázquez Sánchez in 1940, who remained in charge through 1995, providing the longest leadership of any union organization in Mexico, and perhaps in Latin America. In 1946 the CTM, and its peasant counterpart, the National Peasant Federation (CNC), became essential pillars of the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which established a semi-corporatist structure divided among organized labor, peasants, and a "popular," or professional, middle-class sector.

The CTM, rather than successfully defending the bread-and-butter issues important to workers, has largely functioned as a channel through which the majority of the organized working class has been controlled and manipulated either by its own leadership, or in collusion with government officials. Although at times the CTM under Velázquez attempted to resist government-sanctioned economic policies inimical to real wage earnings, it has generally acceded to economic strategies that have contributed to the decline in working-class standards of living. The CTM, through its formal linkages with the governing party, also has attempted to guarantee representation among the political leadership in the Chamber of Deputies, among governors, and among party officials. Although it provides the largest single base of party members, it is underrepresented among influential decision makers, further affecting adversely its influence on prolabor social and economic policies. Its declining influence and prestige are reflected in its lower union membership, a situation that was exacerbated during the Carlos Salinas administration (1988–1994), when many state-run industries, and thus employers, were privatized, along with other market reforms. Although initially opposed to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Velázquez later endorsed it. His death in 1997 signified the end of an era. Furthermore, because of its close ties with the PRI, the CTM's viability was called into question with the watershed presidential election of PAN opposition party candidate Vicente Fox in 2000. The Fox administration, as well as that of Enrique Calderón, elected in 2006, continued to work with CTM leadership. Yet overall, its influence in Mexican politics remains diminished.

See alsoMexico, Political Parties: Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) .


Kevin J. Middlebrook, The Paradox of Revolution, Labor, the State, and Authoritarianism in Mexico (1995).

Dan La Botz, Mask of Democracy: Labor Suppression in Mexico Today (1992) and Unions, Workers, and the State in Mexico (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Aguilar García, Javier. Historia de la CTM, 1936–1990: El movimiento obrero y el estado mexicano. Mexico: Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, Facultad de Economía, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1990.

Aguilar García, Javier, and Reyna Vargas Guzmán. La CTM en el periodo de la globalización: Del sexenio de Carlos Salinas al gobierno de Vicente Fox. Toluca, Mexico: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, 2006.

Brown, Jonathan C., ed. Workers' Control in Latin America, 1930–1979. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Burgess, Katrina. Parties and Unions in the New Global Economy. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004.

Hernández Vicencio, Tania. Los gremios de taxistas en Tijuana: Alternancia política y corporativismo cetemista. Tijuana, Mexico: El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Departamento de Estudios Sociales, 1995.

Reyes Sahagún, Carlos. El movimiento obrero cetemista en Aguascalientes, 1937–1962. Aguascalientes, Mexico: Instituto Cultural de Aguascalientes, 1993.

Sánchez, Sergio G. Guadalupe. Del nuevo sindicalismo maquilador en la ciudad de Chihuahua: Un ensayo sobre el poder entre la nueva clase obrera. Tlalpan, Mexico: CIESAS, 2000.

Sánchez González, Agustín. Los primeros cien años de Fidel Velázquez. Mexico: Nueva Imagen, 1997.

Snodgrass, Michael. Deference and Defiance in Monterrey: Workers, Paternalism, and Revolution in Mexico, 1890–1950. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

                                       Roderic Ai Camp

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Federation of Mexican Labor (CTM)

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Federation of Mexican Labor (CTM)