Brazilian labor demands fair trade; expresses solidarity with US workers

Union leaders in Brazil delivered a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to pursue policies of fair trade, immigration rights, and peace. The letter also expressed solidarity with public workers in the US, who have recently seen their rights curtailed by right-wing governors in the US.

Leaders from six large Brazilian labor confederations met with the President on Saturday, the first day of his two-day visit to Brazil, in Brasilia, the nation’s capital. During the meeting, the union leaders hand delivered a letter to the President expressing their concerns.

The letter said that the Brazilian labor movement was concerned about Brazil’s growing trade deficit with the US, which increased from $4.4 billion in 2009 to $7.7 billion in 2010, a 75 percent increase. The letter placed the blame for the deficit on the depreciation of the US dollar and trade barriers that keep Brazilian goods like orange juice, steel products, ethanol, and tobacco from competing with goods produced in the US. “We demand the immediate withdrawal of all trade barriers against these products,” said the letter.

The letter also expressed solidarity with US public workers who are facing attacks aimed at busting their unions and depriving them of a collective voice in matters that affect their jobs and livelihoods. “We express our solidarity with the public workers of Wisconsin and other states in their fight against attempts by state legislatures to restrict their union activities and collective bargaining rights.”

The Brazilians said that they were dismayed that  temporary state budget deficits were being used as an excuse to deprive public workers of their basic rights and suggested that rulers in other countries would follow the example being set in the US. “We demand that Convention 151 of the International Labor Organization, which the US has not ratified, be respected and upheld.” said the letter. The ILO is a UN organization, and Convention 151, among other things, guarantees the right of public employees to join and be represented by trade unions.

The union leaders urged the US to treat immigrants like the thousands of Brazilians now living in the US with respect and dignity and urged the two governments to reach an agreement that would allow Brazilians living in the US and US citizens living in Brazil to get full social security credit for the time spent working in their non-native country.

Finally, the labor leaders advocated a foreign policy of “peace, human rights, disarmament, and sovereignty of countries and peoples” and demanded an end to economic blockade of Cuba, “which imposes enormous hardship and suffering on the people of Cuba.”

The letter was signed by Artur Henrique da Silva, president of CUT, Paulo Pereira da Silva, president of Forca Sindical, Wagner Gomes, president of CTB, Ricardo Patah, president of the UGT, Jose Ramos Calixto, president of Nova Central, and Antonio Neto, president-general of CGTB.

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