Historic Brazilian Aerospace Strike Ends, But Workers Continue Struggle

Herbert Claros, Vice-Chairman of the Metalworkers’ Union of São José dos Campos, rallies Embraer workers in October 2013. Around 10,000 workers at the Brazilian aerospace company recently struck for fair wages and better profit sharing.

Workers for Embraer in São José dos Campos, Brazil have vowed to continue their fight for fair wages after narrowly voting to suspend the largest strike at the company since the world’s third-largest airplane maker was privatized in 1994.

More than 10,000 workers participated in the five-day strike, which ended November 10. They are demanding a 10 percent wage adjustment while the company is offering only 7.4 percent, a raise far below what workers in other plants in the region have already received. The current inflation rate in Brazil stands around 7 percent.

“Embraer is in a position to make workers a better offer,” said Herbert Claros, Vice-Chairman of the Metalworkers’ Union of São José dos Campos.

Claros said the company used intimidation and bullying to convince just over half of the workers to vote against continuing the strike. Younger workers used the hashtag #TamoJunto, or “Stand Together,” to rally support on social media, said Claros.

“It was historic, the biggest strike since the privatization of Embraer in 1994, and we had a huge turnout even with all the harassment,” said Claros. “Many workers there, especially the young people, were taking part in their first strike.”

According to a balance sheet released by the company, Embraer’s order backlog reached a record $22.1 billion in the third quarter of 2014. Embraer also receives billions of dollars in tax breaks from the Brazilian government.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Brazilian brothers and sisters who are fighting for what they rightfully deserve,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “We call on Embraer to bargain in good faith with the workers who have made the company profitable.”