State-supported sectoral bargaining through wage boards is gaining traction among some U.S. reformers interested in revitalizing unions, collective bargaining, and labor law. New York has become a celebrated case, but the recent experience there left some activists disappointed.

Theoretically, revitalization through wage boards is also complicated. Labor law doctrine, which favors labor union autonomy from the state, might endorse state-created wage boards, but only in a qualified manner. Moreover, reformers consider union membership growth to be important for labor revitalization. And yet, empirical studies have shown that sectoral bargaining has an indeterminate impact on union membership.

Given New York's uneven results, and theoretical qualifications and indeterminacies, this article presents Uruguay as an exploratory study of wage boards to understand what we could learn from the South American country. This article describes how Uruguay's wage councils, convened in various periods since 1943, revitalized labor unions in the South American country. However, specific economic, institutional, and political conditions facilitated the success of the wage councils, pointing at the socio-historical specificities needed for successful wage board strategies. In that light, this article concludes with hypotheses on the possibility of wage board success in the United States and issues for further research to better comprehend the promise of sectoral bargaining through wage boards.

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