What Happened to This Brazilian Aerospace Worker Will Leave You Speechless

Martimiano, third from right, distributes T-shirts that read, translated into English, “Stop sexism, racism and homophobia.”

In São José dos Campos, about an hour’s drive from the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo, working at Embraer is like wearing a badge of honor.

People there are proud of the homegrown aerospace manufacturer; now the world’s No. 3 commercial plane maker. Children dream of one day helping to build an aircraft like an Embraer E-Jet, a wildly successful series of commercial regional jets that now number over 1,000 in the United States, or the Super Tucano, a military plane in use by 11 countries, including the U.S. Air Force.

Telma Martimiano, a victim of discrimination at an Embraer factory in Brazil, now raises awareness about workplace injustices.

Telma Martimiano was once proud to work at Embraer. Now she cries when she talks about her experience there.

Click here to watch the Machinists News Network video, “Brazilian Worker Strait-Jacketed for Being a Woman.”

Martimiano worked at one of Embraer’s factories in São José dos Campos from 2004 to 2009. As a skilled metalworker, she was hired to assemble planes. Instead, because she is black and a woman, her bosses saw her as a janitor.

“We pay you good money,” Martimiano recalls management telling her. “If we tell you to sweep the floors, you will sweep the floors.”

One day in 2009, she told her bosses she would only do what she was being paid to do: build airplanes. After feeling emotionally drained following a heated conversation with management, Martimiano went to the bathroom, sat down in a stall, and cried. Next thing she knew, she was put in a strait jacket and rushed to a mental hospital.

She spent the next 24 hours strapped to a hospital bed without her family knowing where she was.

“My supervisors just told my fellow workers that I had gone to the doctor,” said Martimiano. “But people saw me, I was straitjacketed. They carried me out. People saw, but they didn’t do anything about it.”

Martimiano never worked for Embraer again. A lawsuit brought against the company netted $5,000, but Embraer appealed and the case remains in the Brazilian courts. 

Now, Martimiano tells her story nearly everywhere she goes. On a recent IAM-sponsored trip to the United States, Martimiano and other Brazilian unionists showed up unannounced to an Embraer facility in Nashville, TN. They made a short video at the plant’s entrance to express solidarity with the factory’s currently non-union workforce, but also to raise awareness of Martimiano’s story.

Her motto, printed on T-shirts she isn’t shy to hand out: Stop sexism, racism and homophobia.

“I’d like to simply have everybody know that Embraer, a big firm, has an extremely oppressive work environment,” said Martimiano. “They are oppressive to their own workers. They exploit people.”

Click here to watch the Machinists News Network video, “Brazilian Worker Strait-Jacketed for Being a Woman.”

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