A company that closes and the lives of its workers that stop. A crumbling world and an uncertain future looming, hoping, often in vain, for a saviour, the State, to step in. It is a story often repeated that transcends borders. It takes us to meet Jose Fernandez Pepino, a
“Piquetero” in northern Argentina…
When, in 1992, the national oil company, YPF Argentina, privatized the consequences were immediate. A large number of employees who had previously contributed to the enrichment of the country found themselves laid off. This was the fate experienced by many in the small town of Mosconi, near the Bolivian border. This is where the UTD was born, “La Union de Trabajadores Desocupados” determined to change the fate of the inhabitants of the region. Five years later, in 1997, a long series of obstacles and
occupations to demand work from the major international firms that bought YPF for a pittance began. The date also marks the beginning of a social and human adventure that will propel the people forwards in the ways of self-management and solidarity.
Fifteen years have now passed and the UTD stands strong and ready to respond. It became a municipality of substitution, that is where the government is absent. Cooperative work, education, rehabilitation, environmental protection in contaminated areas, when it comes to action the UTD in Mosconi has no shortage of causes. The city would probably have long become a ghost town after the closure of YPF if it had not been for the action of Pepino and his comrades. No wonder then that this town is now seen as indomitable, a model for others facing similar circumstances.
Pepino is one of the most well know of the “picketers” in of all the organizations and post-2001 social movements in Argentina. When I asked him about France and its social plans, the factories that face closure there, and what could be gained by sharing the experience of Mosconi beyond Argentina, he replied: “But if your country is the birthplace of the French Revolution, you must surely be able to do it again today, right? “
Complete paper in Revista Underground