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Keywords:

  • street vendor unions;
  • public sector unions;
  • formal and informal organizations;
  • Bolivia;
  • Argentina

Abstract

This article examines understandings of work within trade unions of street vendors in El Alto, Bolivia, and state employees in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The particular emphasis is on the distinction between formality and informality in both spheres, and the boundary between formal and informal is analyzed both as a way to organize the description of work (as employment) and as an object of union activism understood as a form of political work. The unions deal with that boundary differently in the two countries, and it is more salient for informants in Argentina than in Bolivia. Further, as an object of the political work of a trade union, it is also managed differently by each of the two Argentine pubic sector unions discussed here.