The Comitati di Base/Grassroots Committees began as organizers of wildcat protests—particularly among highly skilled unionists (teachers, airline pilots, railway locomotive engineers)—against the leveling of wages achieved by negotiators from the official trade unions. The appiattimento (flattening) of incomes was the result of seeking to raise the earnings of those at the lowest levels and was therefore abhorrent to those whose skills were, in their view, inadequately rewarded and whose incentives for accepting greater supervisory responsibilities were undercut by the perceived meagerness of income increments.
   Beginning in the 1980s, the COBAS initiated work stoppages to protest settlements reached by union federation negotiators. They insisted that the years of training and or formal education needed for their work entitled them to a larger share of any increments. To trade unionists, the COBAS’s position perfectly illustrates “corporativism,” that is, the readiness of the members of a particular economic sector to use their numerical strength and/or strategic position to seek advantages for their own category without regard to the general interests of the working class or of the society as a whole. The roots of the COBAS, however, are also to be found in the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro/Italian General Confederation of Labor (CGIL) of the late 1960s. Young workers unused to trade union discipline sometimes regarded union moderation in negotiations as a betrayal. At the Pirelli tire plant in 1969, a compromise settlement resulted in the organization of a Comitato Unitario di Base/United Base Committee (CUB). This workers’council attracted adherents from all skill levels by denouncing both the CGILand the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) as “soft on management.”

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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