Mobilizing Concealment and Spectacle Among Uruguay’s Waste-Pickers

  • P. O’Hare
Part of the Work, Organization, and Employment book series (WOAE)


This chapter centers on the labor organization of waste-pickers (clasificadores) in Montevideo, Uruguay. It compares the organizational strategies of the waste-picker trade union with those of clasificadores working in landfills, and in formal sector recycling plants. While the trade union relies on spectacular protest in an effort to leverage concessions from the municipal government, it is shown that such methods are inappropriate for those at the landfill who instead rely on the concealment of their clandestine labor, and the development of affective bonds with municipal workers. Those working in formal sector recycling plants, meanwhile, are able both to make use of their newly found visibility and to use traditional avenues of workers’ struggle, such as taking strike-action and foot-dragging. Rather than being powerless, a range of ‘weapons of the weak’ are thus shown to be available to waste-pickers. Instead of being individualistic, clasificadores at different sites and scales use these to achieve and defend access to waste and thus livelihoods for various collectives, from cooperative to kinship groups.


Labor organizing Waste-picking Recycling Concealment Spectacle 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SurreyGuildfordUK

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