The core of the lower tier of organizations is comprised of trade unions
and associations of entrepreneurs.
The trade unionsí role of the organizations protecting
workersí interests revived in the late 1980s, as a result of the
resurgence of the working-class movement during Gorbachevís
perestroika. The practice of electing union leaders was
reestablished. Under the pressure of trade unions many
state-appointed economic managers were dismissed from their
positions for gross violations of workersí rights.
In the summer of 1989 minersí strikes were held, the first strikes
by Soviet workers in decades. They challenged the very legitimacy of
a system established on the claim that it represented the working
The strikes acted as schools of the working-class movement by training
leaders and catalyzing a reform of the trade unions. In 1990,
Russiaís leading trade union, the Federation of Independent Trade
Unions of Russia, was set up on the basis of the All-Union Central
Council of Trade Unions. The latter was the single official Soviet
trade union organization that united the overwhelming majority of
the USSRís working population.
Gradually, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia has
assumed characteristics that are distinctly different from those of
its Soviet parent. First, it is no longer directly controlled by a
single party: the trade unions that form the Federation sometimes
have different political orientations. Second, they are no longer
part of the companiesí administration, as they were under the
Soviets. They now distance themselves from the administration and
increasingly assume the functions of protecting specific interests
of its members.
During the 1990s, the Federation fought to moderate the negative
effects of the market reforms on the workers by settling disputes
through negotiations and consultations and by calling strike
actions. The Federation comprises about 365,000 primary local
organizations with a total membership of 42 million. Alongside the
Federation of Independent Trade Unions, other trade union
associations exist in Russia, including the All-Russian
Confederation of Labor, the Congress of Russian Trade Unions, and
others with the total membership of about 6 million.
In the course of the transition to a market economy, the trade unions
have been transformed from the structures that were part of the
command-administrative system into independent public organizations.
On the whole, trade unions in Russia do not yet wield the kind of
influence that their counterparts in more developed civil societies
do. But their reputation among the working population and,
therefore, their impact on public and political life in Russia look
likely to continue to grow.