Brazil: Workers protest against attacks on pensions in 126 cities

Some 10,000 teachers gathered at Republic Square in São Paulo, Brazil, to march with other workers and students on the “National Day of Struggle in Defense of Social Security” on March 22. Demonstrations were held in 126 cities throughout Brazil in this massive coordinated protest — an “act of resistance” to the war on workers’ rights, especially their pension benefits, being waged by reactionary President Jair Bolsonaro.

Ten major labor unions, the Brazilian Peoples Front and People Without Fear Front organized the national day of action. Workers carried signs that read, “We have to work until we die.” Protesters occupied streets and public places to denounce the administration’s assaults on their hard-won benefits.

Bolsonaro, a neofascist and ally of the super-rich, has already lowered the minimum wage and weakened labor law enforcement. He closed the Ministry of Labor. The Finance Ministry is now in charge of pensions, workplace oversight, health and safety, and workers’ salaries.

In February, Bolsonaro submitted a proposal to Congress to amend the Constitution that would slowly dismantle the social security, social protection and retirement systems, eventually leading to their demise. If passed, this amendment would severely harm workers, retirees, people with disabilities and the poor. It would lead to privatization of workers’ pensions and retirement and social security funds. These funds would be held by private banks, which would then have multibillion dollar funds to manage. But the proposal would benefit Bolsonaro’s cronies and allies — members of the military and the wealthy.

Ubiraci Dantas Oliveira, chairperson of the General Workers’ Center (CGTB), stressed: “They want to turn everything over to the banks. Employees would have to pay [contributions] by themselves and employers and the government would not pitch in anymore. It would be all on workers’ shoulders.” (Brasil de Fato, March 22)

Mass protests against Bolsonaro’s attacks on unions and workers occurred on Feb. 20 in 12 cities and on March 8, International Women’s Day. Unions are mobilizing to stop the undoing of pension benefits, and their leaders say workers’ outrage at this attack will lead to a general strike to stop the implementation of this plan to make the rich richer and the workers poorer.


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