Transnational cigar-makers. Cross-border labour markets, strikes, and solidarity at the time of the First International (1864-1873)
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Several authors have argued that one of the main goals of the International Working Men's Association was to control transnational labour markets. In the eyes of trade unionists, especially in Britain, uncontrolled cross-border migratory movements threatened to undermine wage standards and working conditions. Their solution was to organize internationally, both to prevent strike-breaking and wage-cutting by workers from abroad, and to support unions elsewhere to raise wage standards in their home countries. Cigar-makers operated on a cross-border labour market and were very prominent in the First International. In this article I describe the connections between the German, British, Dutch, Belgian, and American cigar-makers as migratory workers, and their actions to stimulate, support, and coordinate trade unions internationally. I argue that the international cooperation of cigar-makers was primarily motivated by a wish to regulate their cross-border labour market, not so much by an abstract ideal of international solidarity.