Brazil: Left union opposition advances in the fight for the leadership of SINTAEMA

A list of opposition activists led by the LSR (CWI in Brazil) will contest the second round of elections for the leadership of the largest union of sanitation workers in Latin America.

The first round of the SINTAEMA (Union of Workers in Water, Sewage and Environment) elections were held on 15, 16 and 17 October for the state of Sao Paulo. The union represents more than 22,000 workers, with 13,000 members.

The union’s leadership is largely in the hands of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) and has been for over 20 years. Today the union is affiliated to the Council of Workers of Brazil (CTB), which is the trade union federation linked to PCdoB. The union leadership’s political strategy is conciliation with the leaders of big companies and the state and federal governments. The methods of leadership are extremely bureaucratic.

A left workers opposition movement in the union, which is democratic and has class based politics, Opposition Alternative of Struggle (OAS), has been built in the union over 13 years. Currently the opposition is linked to the Center People’s Association and CSP-Conlutas and their platform is led by Abdon and Marzena Souza Pereira, members of LSR (the Brazilian section of the CWI), along with several supporters of the LSR and a member of the PSTU (United Workers Socilaist Party.

OAS Activists

Given the risk of defeat for the leadership, two groups split from them and decided to form opposition lists. One is connected to the CUT (Central Workers, connected to Lula’s Workers’ Party, PT) and the other is connected to “Intersindical” (an inter-union organisation linked to ‘Socialist Union Alternative’). Another very minor list was formed by ex-members of the ‘Opposition Alternative of Struggle’. Thus, five lists contested the first round of the elections.

The OAS list got the most votes in the opposition camp, taking second place in the general vote. OAS will now contest the second round of elections against the current leadership’s list on 8, 9 and 10 November.

Overall results

1st place – List 1 (PCdoB / CTB): 3568 (44.08%)

2nd place – List 4 (CSP-Conlutas – LSR, PSTU): 1490 (18.41%)

3rd place – List 3 (Inter, ASS): 1241 (15.33%)

4th place – List 5 (CUT): 1209 (14.94%)

5th place – List 2 (group that broke with Opposition Alternative of Struggle): 244 (3.01%)

Blank: 116 (1.43%)

Invalid: 227 (2.80%)

Total votes: 8095

In this situation, the securing of a second round of elections was a major victory for the activists of OAS. In the second round there will be a clearer and more direct confrontation between the opposition and the current leadership. Despite the great difficulties in confronting a huge union apparatus which is backed by big business, and both the state government of Sao Paulo and the federal government, the opposition’s chances are quite good.

Sections of the other lists, including their leadership’s, but especially the rank and file, are already declaring support for the OAS list. But the determination and energy of the OAS activists, particularly the members of LSR, will be a key factor for a good result in this second round

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