Young workers and trade unions in Brazil today: Creative tension and tactical innovations

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:10
Oral Presentation
Natalia CINDRA FONSECA, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Marco SANTANA, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The paper analyzes the experiences of workers collective action in Brazil. Focusing on the 2012-2015 period, we draw attention to the relationship of a young generation politically engaged and its impacts in the experiences of renewal and tactical innovation in the trade union movement. Based on data produced by official institutions, union organizations, newspapers and interviews with activists and leaderships we verified the results of the creative tensions between union organizations and precarious young workers and how they are building or not a set of renewed practices and strategies of labor resistance.

The chosen period is interesting as it is marked by the return of policies addressing economic and social development. It is also characterized by reduction of unemployment, resumption of formal employment, different forms of State-union relations and reconfiguration of social classes. One main characteristic of the period is the rise of a young generation as an important political actor, which had in the massive street demonstrations of June 2013 its greater icon. In terms of its profile, this youth is the most educated generation to date. However, representing 20% of the economically active population, it is hit by twice the unemployment rates and occupies mostly more vulnerable and moreprecarious jobs. Asking for alternative ways of action and organizing the young workers have put their leadership under strong pressure. The conflicts between youth and the traditional organizations have given rise to interesting initiatives such as the strikes of Jirau and Belo Monte (2012), of call centers attendants (2014) and the June Rebellions (2013). As we shall see sometimes these actions were put forward without the Unions support and even against it. In other cases, the leadership was able to deal with the youth demands staying closer to its movements.