Costa Rican solidarism has its origins in a genuine Costa Rican experience, based on the concept of solidarity highlighted by the social doctrine of the church, which gives the idea of compact or solid cohesion, integration. Solidarity is not selfishness or imposition, hatred or struggle; it is rather the combination of several parties, the collaboration of several people, to achieve a common objective. Thus understood, solidarity assumes the freedom of men, because this combination of people should be free and voluntary.

It is a system that fosters production, democratizes the capital and satisfies the aspirations or needs of entrepreneurs and workers. It philosophy goes against the struggle of classes. It considers that capital and work, employer and employee, they should be together in order to increase production and improve the socio-economic conditions of the workers.

In Costa Rica, solidarism had the social reforms from 1940 to 1943 as its background. The founder of the movement was the Costa Rican lawyer and economist Mr. Alberto Marten Chavarría. In 1947, the movement started in the economic field, as a solution to the employer-employee problems that emerged from the promulgation of the Labor Code.

What about Solidarism Law?

Since 1984 there is the Law for Solidarity Associations No 6970 that defined a Solidarity Association as a social organizations managed by the workers themselves in a totally autonomous way. The passing of this law was a step in the right direction benefiting democracy. This process occupied four legislative terms, attained three majority decisions, an was taken up on three occasions in plenary sessions at Congress. The state shall endeavor to strengthen and develop the solidarity employee associations.

What is a Solidarity Association?

Solidarity associations are inspired on a human attitude, through which men identify and recognize the needs and aspirations of others, thus committing themselves to the contribution of resources and efforts to satisfy those needs and aspirations fairly and peacefully. The governance and administration of these associations are exclusive competence of the workers that are affiliated to them. Their main objectives are to:

  • Foster social justice and peace
  • Reach employer-employee harmony
  • Integrally develop its associates.

In sum, the solidarity association represents and wellbeing, economic safety and integral development of its members and their families, a guarantee for the company in terms of having a working environment that promotes harmonious relationships with the workers, that would result in improved production. On the other hand, it represents an increase in national savings and production at the national level.

The solidarity association should be constituted by at least twelve workers of age, appointed according to a set of articles of incorporation and bylaws. A Board of Directors and a Fiscal direct it. Its economic resources come from a percentage of the savings from the salary of its members—the amount is set by the general assembly, and could not be greater than 5%–however, the members can add voluntary savings. In addition, the employer contributes with a percentage that is equal to the fund for dismissals, which is under the custody and administration of the association as a reserve for loans.

A Solidarity association is an organization with unlimited term, with its own corporate legal capacity, which in order to attain its objectives may purchase all manner of assets, enter into all manner of contracts and undertake all kinds of legal operations oriented toward the socio-economic progress of its associates , aimed in the dignification and improvement of their standard of living.

What should a employee do to get the affiliation to a Solidarity Association and get the status of Associate?

The right to affiliation is freely exercised by all employees working for a company, as long as they comply with the requirements stipulated herein. There is guarantee of equality of rights and obligations regardless of race, creed, sex, legal status, or political preference. An Associate is who sign the articles of association and admitted subsequently in accordance with the by-laws. There names may be recorded in the members registry which must bear the association name.

What should include the by-laws of a Solidarity Association?

  • The name of the organization
  • Its domicile
  • The objectives pursued and the means to attain these; as well as the intention of obeying the basic principles of solidarism.
  • The method of affiliation and withdrawal of its associates, their duties and rights, as well as the procedures and conditions in which they can join federations and confederations.
  • To set a minimum amount of savings for workers, as well as the minimum of the other economic resources that the association will have at its disposal.
  • The associations committees and their obligations.
  • The conditions and manner of extinguishment, dissolution and liquidation.

What is expressly prohibited to a Solidarity Association?

  • To exercise activities of political-electoral or partisan nature as such, when carrying out duties pertaining to such representation.
  • To establish privileges for its founding associates or directors.
  • To undertake any type of activity tending to oppose, or in any way hamper, the creation or functioning of labor unions or cooperatives organizations.
  • To favor third parties with the profits, resources, services or any other benefits of the association, with the exception of cases meant to benefits employees working for the same employer in a special way.

Is the Solidarism and important sector of the economy?

The solidarity sector has a participation with respect the Gross Domestic Product of 8%. In addition, it is estimated that the sector manages about $7.3 million per month, and in terms of flow of resources the amount per year reaches the $88.5 millions. This shows that the Solidarity sector become one of the most dynamic areas in the economy, both in terms of participation of workers in the movement and in the economic context. In absolute terms the level of assets is about $818 million, this is again a reflection of the social and economic development and growth of the workers that belong to such social sector.
Solidarism has contributed to the progress of its associates providing them access to credit at very good rates of interest , it has been estimated that only in the year 2001 the associates of the solidarism sector have an economy of about $85 million because of the less cost of their credit. On the other hand, the credit portfolio managed reached the $278.5 million which is 19% of all the credit of the private sector in Costa Rica.

Is there any organization that promotes Solidarism in Costa Rica ?

The Costa Rican Solidarity Movement is a nonprofit civil organization that groups the solidarity Associations of the country in order to promote union, promotion, strengthening and development of the sector.

Is Solidarism only in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica solidarism had the social reform from 1940 to 1943 as its background. The founder of this movement was the Costa Rican lawyer and economist Mr. Alberto Martén Chavarría in 1947. In Central America inspired on the “1947 model” there are many solidarity association, in Guatemala since 1971, them Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belice and starting in the new century Mexico.

Author: Ricardo González MBA, vicepresident of the costarrican solidarism movement