May Day

Gabriela Pinilla, Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar, Oil on copper, 28 X 60 centimeters, 2014, Bogotá, Colombia


It is necessary to face up to emergency demands; workers in Brazil are no longer just losing rights, they are losing life

On this 1st of May, it is important to highlight that the reversal of the humanitarian, social and economic tragedy in which we find ourselves depends essentially on the collective reaction of the working class. Although it is not for me to say how these necessary and urgent reactions should be carried out, as I also consider myself part of the class that lives off work, I think that I can, legitimately, be at least propositional regarding the most prominent guidelines.

First, it seems opportune to say that in the face of the concrete tragedy experienced, just reproducing abstract conceptualizations, in the name of theoretical coherence, supposedly radical, just recommending that the only solution to the problems experienced by male and female workers would be the proletarian revolution, failing, with this, to make any confrontation with regard to emergency demands, ends up being a way of contributing, in a different way, to the same demobilizing and conservative effect advocated in the neoliberal view that things are as they are because they cannot be different and that the unhappy future for the majority of the population is a fact marked by the inexorability of economic forces, against which nothing can be done, leaving, therefore, each one to seek their own space of survival.

But it should also be said that demobilization and preservation of the present state of affairs are equally promoted by the defense and hope that everything will be resolved – and only then will it be – in the 2022 elections, not least because every life lost is not recovered.

It is urgently necessary to admit that we are experiencing a tragedy, which imposes emergency attitudes on all of us. Faced with the deepening of precarious forms of labor exploitation and the neglect of governments regarding the adoption of effective preventive measures, workers in Brazil are no longer just losing rights, they are losing their lives.

Thousands of people die every day (not to mention underreporting). In addition, several of the side effects of COVID and the precariousness of the world work and misery are multiplied to the extreme; either the consequences themselves, or the physical and psychological suffering that result from the whole situation experienced inside and outside work – which has not been accounted for, by the way. And this does not seem to affect the economic policy of the current government in the slightest, since, as the Minister of Economy has already said, it is not economically sustainable for domestic workers to visit Disney[1] or that people, all of them, want to live 100 years[2].

What should remain clear is that the deaths of male and female workers from COVID-19 (or from any other cause), hunger and the poor health of the population in general are predictably and even desirable to be accounted for by the market economy. , to which said Minister is organically linked.

This perception of the current concrete materiality (with its historical origin), full of contradictions that, when well explored, reveal the ideology that subverts reality, is fundamental for the formation of conscience, in order to provide effective actions to achieve immediate results and necessarily urgent in defense of life, such as: paid leave; guarantee of employment and wages; understanding of truly essential activities within the restricted framework of labor legislation itself, such as those linked to “public convenience” or to an “overriding need” (art. 67 of the CLT), always bearing in mind social relevance and not private economic interests; improvement of working conditions in these activities, with a reduction in working hours (extensive to teleworking), elimination of production targets, requirement and inspection of the delivery and use of personal protective equipment, removal from work of those who are part of a risk group, relays , distance, compatible and safe transport and adequate food. And it should be noted that face-to-face classes are not essential in this context of risk to life and the number of people on public transport must be intensely reduced in order to guarantee distancing.

Sanitary and solidarity strikes (hence, including, the essential nature of the general sanitary strike) are legally supported by the principle that the defense of fundamental rights, such as the right to life (the main one), does not depend on a law that guarantees or define how it should be exercised.

The judicial route, likewise, cannot be neglected and is guaranteed by the constitutional right of action that is also used in procedures of a precautionary and inhibitory nature to guarantee the effectiveness of life protection measures, including the very guarantee of employment, being unavoidable, from the point of view of reparation (but which also has a preventive effect), the consideration of covid-19 as an occupational disease, without the need to prove the causal link) cannot be ignored.

Also extremely relevant are the political actions for: public vaccination directed by the State, for everyone, respecting medical recommendations, breaking patents, for the production of vaccines on an accelerated scale; the implementation of emergency measures such as lockdown, isolation and curfew; the concession of dignified emergency aid (minimum, R$1.000,00); the public fight against hunger, offering real organic and unprocessed food, integrated into a concrete food security project; the strengthening of public health services; the nationalization of multinational companies that promote the cessation of their activities and do not fulfill their minimum social commitment to maintain jobs and wages; in addition to the primordial integration of outsourced, informal and precarious workers of all kinds, such as delivery people, to collective representations and labor struggles.

All this, evidently, without losing sight of the – not very distant – horizon of building another model of society, because the one that is there, at every moment that denies rights and says that it can only be sustained with an increase in the exploitation of labor and contempt to the life of others, treating the death of male and female workers, poverty and hunger with naturalness, gives more than evident signs of its limitations as a social form compatible with the entire human condition.

*Jorge Luiz Souto Maior is a professor of labor law at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among other books, of Moral damage in employment relationships (Studio editors)





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