USW International Vice President Fred Redmond led a union delegation to Brazil to observe the first round of presidential elections on Oct. 7.
Joining Redmond were Clayola Brown, president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and staff members from the USW and the United Auto Workers.
“The global labor movement must support our union sisters and brothers in Brazil whose rights are under attack,” Redmond said.
Workers’ Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad won 28 percent of the votes in the first round, and far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro won 46 percent. The two will compete in a second round of elections on Oct. 28.
Haddad entered the race after former president and union leader Lula da Silva, the overwhelming favorite in the polls, was imprisoned on fabricated corruption charges and disqualified from running. The United Nations Human Rights Committee criticized the lack of due process, concluding that Lula has the right to run for president as guaranteed in the Brazilian Constitution.
“Lula is a political prisoner and people know it,” said International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
Bolsonaro, who has strong support from business, corporate media and the military, has threatened to roll back human rights and civil rights laws and empower police to shoot to kill. He has publicly disparaged women, Afro-Brazilians, and LGBT people.
The rights of Brazilian workers were already weakened by labor law reforms earlier this year that weaken unions, raise the retirement age and allow any jobs to be contracted out.
The U.S. union delegation visited a polling place and met with leaders of Brazilian and international political parties. In addition, Brown and Redmond met with Afro-Brazilian union leaders to discuss ongoing joint work to fight racism and develop black labor and community leadership at a time when the gains of black workers in both Brazil and the U.S. are threatened by head-on right-wing assaults.
“We can’t allow the advances we have made for racial equality and justice over the past 50 years to be destroyed,” Redmond said. “We have to stand strong and fight together.”