Brazilian Unions Ask President Obama to Support Wisconsin Workers

In a letter to President Obama on March 19, six Brazilian labor confederations expressed their solidarity with public employees in Wisconsin and other states who are fighting to defend collective bargaining rights, according to an American labor union lauding the action.

The letter was hand delivered by Brazilian labor leader Artur Henrique da Silva to Obama during his visit to Brazil.

It states that the Brazilian unions “are surprised, and must register our protest, that on the grounds of ‘budgetary reasons’ some U.S. state governments are limiting and even extinguishing basic rights won by public employees,” according to the United Steelworkers, the U.S. labor group which released a statement supporting the letter.

The Brazilian unions called on the United States to guarantee “full freedom of association, collective bargaining, and freedom of expression and assembly” for public employees.

“We deeply appreciate the solidarity of our Brazilian sisters and brothers,” says United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard. “The Brazilian labor movement fought to bring down a dictatorship that banned collective bargaining, so they know what they are talking about.”

Obama visited Brazil as the first stop on a five-day trip through Latin America. He departed Brazil for neighboring Chile, before his scheduled wrap-up in El Salvador on Wednesday.

At issue in Wisconsin has been Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s drive to strip state workers of their ability to bargain collectively, which was part of Walker’s so-called “budget repair” effort.

Outcry over Walker’s anti-union initiative has prompted fierce opposition. Public employees and tens of thousands of others have been staging ongoing protests for weeks in the state capital of Madison to support collective bargaining. Those protests have spilled out across the Midwest and elsewhere in the United States.

Wisconsin’s Democratic state senators fled the state in an effort to deny Walker and his state GOP allies the necessary quorum to approve the anti-union measure, but Republicans found a way around that and approved the bill anyway.

Most recently, a judge in Wisconsin issued a temporary order which blocks the law from taking effect.

Although Obama and his team have issued statements objecting to efforts to limit collective bargaining, the president has yet to appear in Wisconsin or take another high-profile stand against Walker’s efforts.

Other celebrities, including filmmaker Michael Moore and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), have rallied with the protesters.

Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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