Italian Labour Union

Unione Italiana del Lavoro
Full name Italian Labour Union
Native name Unione Italiana del Lavoro
Founded 1950
Members 2,196,442 (2011)[1]
Affiliation ITUC, ETUC, TUAC
Key people Carmelo Barbagallo, general secretary
Office location Rome, Italy
Country Italy

The Italian Labour Union or UIL, in Italian Unione Italiana del Lavoro, is a national trade union center in Italy. It was founded in 1950 as socialist, social democratic, (republican) and laic split from Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL, Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro). It represents almost 2.2 million workers.

The UIL is affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).


The UIL flag

The birth of UIL was a gradual process made by different steps, it was the result of both: the splits from the "unite CGIL"[2] son of the Pact of Rome and the turbulence within Italian parties in the first postwar years, especially around the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) area.

The beginning: the unified CGIL

On 3 June 1944, while Italy was still participating in World War II, Giuseppe Di Vittorio on behalf of Italian Communist Party (PCI), Achille Grandi on behalf of Christian Democracy and Emilio Canevari on behalf of PSI[3] signed the "Pact of Rome". As a consequence of this pact was established the "unite CGIL". The CGIL born from the pact had as objective to unify all the Italian workers under one flag independently from their political and religious views; it was the fruit of the cooperation among all the anti-fascist parties included in the National Liberation Committee. The three leading political movements, the communist, the socialist and the Catholic one were all under the same roof in the name of workers rights and anti-fascist fight.

The origin: the splittings from CGIL

The first general election of Italian Republic[4] were held the 18 April 1948. As a result, Socialist Unity, the political alliance formed by Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PDSI) and reformist socialist in union with PRI got the 7.07% of votes in elections for the Italian Chamber of Deputies and the 3.62% for Italian Senate participating to the 5th cabinet of Alcide De Gasperi with two ministers. For the first time in history of the young Italian republic the PCI and the PSI went to the opposition, while the socialdemocrat and moderated socialists joined the government. At the same time the CGIL were enforcing the links with the PCI, until arriving to the point of calling for a general strike against the De Gasperi cabinet because of the hurting of Palmiro Togliatti, PCI general secretary, in an attack on 14 July 1948.[5] For all these reasons the 15 September 1948 a group of Catholic trade unionists, some Republicans and some Social Democrats, split from CGIL and founded a new union, initially called the "Free CGIL" (Libera CGIL, LCIGL), later called the Italian Confederation of Workers' Trade Unions (CISL). CGIL remained the union of the communists, the socialists and the laic and reformist factions.

The laic and the reformer factions were constituted mainly by Italian Liberal Party (PLI), other Republicans, Social Democrats and some autonomous socialists affiliated to the same political faction within PSI led by Giuseppe Romita. After the birth of LCIGL they remained in the CIGL, but not for long.

The increasing political strikes of CGIL against Italian membership in NATO and the violent events of 17 May 1949 in Molinella[6] pushed the non-communist groups to leave the CGIL and set up the Federazione Italiana del Lavoro (FIL).

The birth of the FIL

On 4 June 1949, in the aula magna of liceo Visconti in Rome, Republicans and Social Democrats founded the Italian Labor Federation (FIL). Later, in the summer of 1949, some trade unionists of the autonomous socialist faction led by Italo Viglianesi split from CGIL, following the example of autonomous socialists led by Romita who split from PSI and founded the United Socialist Party (PSU) in December 1949. The attempt of Viglianersi group to join the FIL was blocked because FIL, under American pressure, was considering merging with the Catholic LCGIL. The American embassy (US Department of State) and the American Federation of Labor were pushing to have a big unified and strong not communist trade union center to stand out against the red CGIL.

During its first and last congress in Naples from 29 January to 5 February 1950, the FIL arrived to fix the merge with LCIGL the Americans were hoping for. The decision was immediately disputed both in the legitimacy (because decision was took from FLI executives without any votation) and in the topic (many wanted the FIL to be independent). The PRI had, already in the summer of 1949, invited republican members of FLI to contrast every proposal of merging in other union center. In the same period the PSU just born, approved an agenda turned toward the creation of a new independent trade union center. For this reason Italo Viglianesi, autonomist socialist, set up the Gruppi d'azione sindacale unitaria or GASU.[7]

At the end only the executives of FIL joined the LCIGL (that just a month later, on April 30, 1950, changed its name to the Italian Confederation of Workers' Trade Unions). The rank and file decided to set up a new trade union center independent from politics (included the Americans and the communists). On 5 February 1950, at the end of the congress, also the FIL ceased its existence.

1950, the birth of the UIL

On 5 March 1950 in the Casa dell’Aviatore (Aviator House) in Rome 253 delegates participated to the founder meeting of the Italian Labour Union (UIL),[8] a new trade union strongly social democratic and reformist.

Among the protagonists that day there were Italo Viglianesi, Enzo Dalla Chiesa and Renato Bulleri from PSU, Raffaele Vanni and Amedeo Sommovigo from PRI, trade unionist from PSLI,[9] many independent trade unionists and influential persons like the partisan and former Prime Minister Ferruccio Parri. Assembly president was senator Luigi Carmagnola.[10] In the programmatic and founder declaration approved by delegates were indicated the UIL five founding pilasters:

Later also the commitment in favour of Mezzogiorno (south Italy) was included in the programmatic and founder declaration.

Its opposition to the American wish for merging into LCIGL denied the union political help and funding for a long time. Despite these difficulties and the isolation, in the first years the UIL constantly increased its weight among the Italian workers, reaching 400 000 members by the end of 1950.[11]

On 1 January 1, 1952 UIL became a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which later, in 2006, merged into the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). In 1973 UIL became a member of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

On 6 December 1953 the second UIL congress was held in Rome (the founding meeting is considered to have been the first).

Unified trade union

Between 1968 and the beginning of the 1980s, CGIL, CISL and UIL united, setting up the "CGIL, CISL, UIL Federation", a federation that coordinated the three unions, while maintaining their independence. It was like having again the unified CGIL but leaving the three members independent from political influences.[12] This federation, even if didn't take full effect among all the affiliated federation, managed to work in a satisfactory way only at the beginning in the early 1970s, especially during the season called Hot Autumn (Autunno Caldo).

Unity didn't survive 1985 when a law[13] issued by Bettino Craxi cabinet cut the "sliding wage scale". The PCI called for a referendum to cancel the law. Unofficially the three unions already expressed different views about that law. The different positions became public domain when the parties of Craxi's cabinet, (DC, PSI, PSDI, PRI, PLI) launched a political offensive to defend the law and sank the referendum. The PCI led by Enrico Berlinguer on the other side called all the forces in opposition to the law, included CGIL led by Luciano Lama, to be united in favour of referendum.

CISL and UIL, led by Pierre Carniti and Giorgio Benvenuto, and part of CGIL (the area led by Ottaviano del Turco), lined up in favour of the government position. The referendum failed, CGIL and PCI lost their battle, but the CGIL, CISL, UIL Federation broke up.

Seconda Repubblica

Following the dissolution of traditional parties in Italy from 1989 on, the UIL lost its political links with PSDI, PLI, PRI and moderate PSI and became autonomous from politics. UIL members are no longer politically identifiable like in the past, although many are still affiliated with the Socialist Party and the Democratic Party.


In 2011, according to the last official data available, the UIL members are: 1 328 583 active workers, 575 266 retired[14] and 292 593 second membership[15] for a total of 2 196 442 members.[1]

General secretaries

1953–1969 Italo Viglianesi
1969–1971 Lino Ravecca, Ruggero Ravenna and Raffaele Vanni[16]
1971–1976 Raffaele Vanni
1976–1992 Giorgio Benvenuto
1992–2000 Pietro Larizza
2000- Luigi Angeletti

Affiliated union federations

The list of affiliated federation includes at present the following:[17]


  1. 1 2 Source: (Italian) members page from
  2. In Italian "CGIL unitaria" (unite CGIL) is used to indicate the CGIL from its birth in 1944 to 1950 before the splits that generated the Italian Confederation of Workers' Trade Unions (CISL) and the UIL, while CGIL indicate what remained after the divisions until present See page 15 and following from: Adolfo Pepe, Storia del sindacato in Italia nel '900: La CGIL e la costruzione della democrazia, Volume 3 di Storia del sindacato in Italia nel '900. Editore Ediesse, Italy 2001.
  3. Emilio Canevari was replacing Bruno Buozzi sentenced just few days before by nazists.
  4. A year after the end of WWII with the Italian constitutional referendum, 1946 Italy became a republic.
  5. Togliatti was shot three times, being severely wounded. His life hung in uncertainty for days before he finally recovered
  6. That day, in Molinella the communists opposed to the results of the election for the local (trade congress) won regurarly by socialdemocrat faction, assaulting congress during its first meeting. At the end of the uncountable a woman died and many were wounded.
  7. The name literally means: 'Group for an unifying trade union action'.
  8. The name Unione Italiana del Lavoro was chosen at the suggestion of Arturo Chiari from PSU and it referred to the Unione Italiana del Lavoro (UIdL), a small reformist union existing before the fascist era.
  9. The Socialist Party of Italian Workers (Partito Socialista dei Lavoratori Italiani, PSLI) was the first name of Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI).
  10. See (Italian) historical section on
  11. See again (Italian) historical section on
  12. See the (Italian) federated pact from
  13. Known in Italian as Decreto Legge di San Valentino (St. Valentine law).
  14. When a member of one among the sixteen federations within the UIL retires become automatically member of the UIL Pensionati (the UIL federation of retired workers).
  15. These number refers to people member of independent unions or sectoral union not affiliated directely to any federation within the UIL confederation.
  16. This was the only case of a triumvirate within the UIL. Together with the three, the former general secretary Italo Viglianesi was elected President (chairman). This set up a soft transition and a mediation among the three faction representing the PSDI the PSI and the PRI.
  17. List from (Italian) section subscriber on

See also


External links

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