Fratricidal conflicts

Image: PhotoMIX Company


The nature of a trade union organization and the category’s participation in different deliberative spaces


In periods of mobilization of workers for better conditions to carry out their functions, the controversy over the place and role of the means of organizing work returns to the scene. In the intense debates that take place in the deliberative forums of the categories, competing versions emerge about the nature of unions and associations, as well as about participation in different spaces of coordination and struggle.

One of the arguments that have circulated in teaching assemblies at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) states that the union is not a company and, therefore, should not be considered the property of its management. This premise is followed by the conclusion, obvious according to its formulators, that the union, in the context of a category strike, must be led by the majority of those present at the assemblies and meetings of the self-established strike command.

Although we can agree with the premise, we can reach a different conclusion to that presented above. The union, in fact, cannot be considered a company. It is, rather, a social organization created and managed by its members based on a statute, approved in an assembly, which establishes the rights and duties of its members, forms of organization and management, among other relevant rules. .

In general, trade union organizations have, in their statutes, a way to elect representatives of the category, who then become responsible for its management, for an established period and established rules of conduct and deliberation. The electoral process involves the participation of all members up to date with their obligations in relation to the union. From the moment this process is concluded and for the duration of the mandate, the elected board begins to represent its members, being responsible for its actions and being responsive to the interests of its entire base.

Therefore, even when we are in an exceptional period, such as in times of category strike, what is stipulated in the statute continues to apply, including the mandate of the board elected by the majority of its members. Even if the mobilized members of the category, gathered in the strike command, claim the right, based on a supposed tradition established in previous strikes, to replace the representatives with a current mandate, the board ultimately has the prerogative to define the actions to be carried out, always respecting the status and interests of the entire affiliated base that elected it.

Now, the board was elected, in a legitimate process, to represent all members, and must be accountable and responsive to them, not just to the politically active members of the category, who take part in assemblies and meetings of the strike command. The board is responsible for managing the resources arising from union contributions and the entire structure of the union, as it was granted a mandate through a procedure established by statute, in which everyone had the right to participate and whose vote has weight. equal, regardless of their willingness to participate in organizational spaces established during exceptional periods.


We know that it is increasingly difficult for teachers to be willing to participate in the different spaces of the category, especially in assemblies and strike commands. Historically, we have observed strategies for prolonging meetings, which exhaust those interested in decisions. There are sequences of questions of order and clarifications, which are repeated in the following speeches, which end up delaying the deliberation indefinitely.

When the vote on the agenda is won, we have another sequence of speeches, supposedly for reflection and political formation, in addition to allowing the expression of contradictory views. However, what is expected and what actually happens have never been so different: brutality, violent communication, embarrassment, disrespect, shouting that contributes to alienating and silencing people who do not align with the thinking of the majority established there.

Instead of being spaces for the formation of consensus, for the mutual identification of teachers and for the promotion of a sense of belonging, the assemblies have promoted fratricidal conflicts and the disunity of the category. Political conflicts, which originate outside the university space, end up spilling over into these spaces and alienating a significant part of the teaching staff.

In this context, groups that have the support of the majority of the plenary violate the union's statute so that their ideals prevail, to the detriment of the expression of everyone affected by the decisions to be taken. It is interesting to observe the explosive reaction on the part of the actors/actresses who take part in the organizational spaces of the teaching category, in several Brazilian universities, to the mere suggestion that deliberation instruments be adopted that extend the right to vote, in fundamental decisions for their lives, to people who are not physically present at the assemblies.

What justifies, after all, the rejection of consultation methods that would allow the expression of people who, for various reasons, do not participate in these spaces?


Finally, as much as the mobilization of the category and its coordination in assemblies and strike command are important for carrying out struggles for better working conditions, one cannot lose sight of the fact that the union is an organization of all /its associates, regardless of their willingness to take part in these spaces.

If this were not the case, it would not be necessary to hold elections for the union's leadership: it would be enough for a group, which does not have the broadest support of the category, to organize itself so that, every period, it proposes in an assembly the launch of strikes and, thus, take control of the union's resources as if they belonged to them. The most likely result would be mass disaffiliation from the union and the loss of its legitimacy.

No one wants to have their union contributions appropriated by groups that have no responsibility to be accountable to their peers nor owe any accountability to those who, after all, did not choose them as their representatives.

*Ana Lúcia Goes is a professor of physiotherapy at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).

*Claudia Miranda is a professor at the Department of Physical Education at UFBA.

*Renato Francisquini Professor at the Department of Political Science at UFBA.

the earth is round there is thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

See this link for all articles