Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

New Subcontracting Law Threatens Black Women

The Brazilian government recently voted to expand subcontracting, a policy that will disproportionately affect Black women.

Victor Mariutti

April 10, 2017
Facebook Twitter Share

Left Voice’s second issue, “Women on the Front Lines”, is now available to purchase. For every magazine sold, we will donate a dollar to a worker controlled factory in Argentina.

In Brazil, the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, most victims of subcontracted employment are Black women. The structural marginalization of Brazil’s Black population marked by segregation, state repression and genocide, coupled with the sexual division of labor, has subjected Black Brazilian women to flagrant social vulnerability and job insecurity. The inevitable impact of neoliberal policies and job market deregulations upon Black Brazilian women attest to the racist and sexist character of present day capitalism.

On Friday, March 31, amidst dozens of massive demonstrations throughout Brazil against the Temer administration’s labor reforms and austerity policies, the president passed legislation that will lead to unlimited subcontracting in both the public and private sectors. In Brazil, subcontracted workers, who are disproportionately black, LGBT and women, earn considerably less and have an 80% greater chance of suffering fatal workplace accidents. Subcontracted workers are often caught in a battle between their place of employment and their employers, resulting in worse working conditions and often, not being paid their salary. This was the case for years at the State University of Rio de Janiero, where subcontracted university janitors, overwhelmingly Black women, would not get paid their salary for months at a time. Both the university and the company skirted their responsibility, each blaming the other.

President Temer was previously expected to await the Senate’s approval of a similar bill. However, he signed the lower house’s draft into law, signaling an even harsher attack on labor regulations. However, this expansion of subcontracting is not new. Former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, months before the Workers’ Party (PT) won the presidency with Lula, originally proposed this piece of legislation in 2002. PT remained in power from 2003 until last year when Dilma Rousseff was impeached in a right wing coup orchestrated by the business lobby, congress conservatives and the judiciary. Despite giving lip service service to worker’s rights, subcontracting expanded under the Worker’s Party Presidents- both Lula and Dilma. In fact, subcontracting grew 300% during their administrations.

The law signed by President Temer allows temporary contracts of up to nine months and the outsourcing of virtually all services. It also allows contracts to see individual workers as a business, rather than as individuals. This eliminates many workplace rights. Black workers, already the most exploited and oppressed sector in Brazil, will be disproportionately affected by this law.

This is the latest in a series of austerity measures and attacks on labor and social rights by the Temer administration, which include severe cuts to pension benefits and the loosening of labor regulations, among others. Brazilian workers and youth demonstrated determination to fight against these attacks on March 15 in a nationwide work stoppage involving millions of workers and countless massive protests across the country and again on March 31.

While Temer approved the subcontracting bill, permitting unrestricted outsourcing and precarious employment, tens of thousands of workers and youths marched in the streets of Belo Horizonte, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of protesters also took to the streets in various other cities across the country. In Salvador and Recife highways were blocked and in Alagoas, transit workers staged a work stoppage.


Protest in Natal, Brazil

Despite this show of resistance, union bureaucrats continue to be reluctant to mobilize rank-and-file workers. There are mass mobilizations of workers, so the unions should call for and organize a general strike capable of barring Temer’s attacks on the poor and working class. This posture by Brazil’s major national trade union centers serves to tame Brazilians’ indignation and channel public outrage towards a second re election of Lula in 2018.

Yet, the past thirteen years under Workers’ Party (PT) administrations have clearly shown that the electoral and reformist tactics of the PT are utterly ineffective in preserving or advancing the interests of women, Black people and the working class. While union bureaucrats and popular fronts timidly call for a general strike in April, we cannot forget their routine complicity with the past government’s attacks that effectively smothered the labor movement and failed to organize a single general strike against the countless neoliberal policies administered by Lula and Rousseff.
The expansion of outsourcing and growingly precarious employment by Brazilian capitalists and the Temer administration highlights the perpetuation of the super-exploitation of black labor established centuries ago on the American continents. Neither neoliberal rhetoric about individual social mobility nor the reformist left with its class conciliatory tactics can offer a real solution to the systemic racism and sexism inherent to the capitalist regime.

To effectively bar these attacks on the most oppressed and exploited, the labor movement must set aside its failed electoral politics and organize rank-and-file workers against Temer and the coup-plotters through a general strike. Women, LGBTs, African-Brazilians and youth have already demonstrated a great potential to resist this reactionary offensive, but radical nation-wide organization and coordination is urgently needed to win.

Facebook Twitter Share

Latin America

Alfredo Cisneros, Mexican land defender from Michoacán, stands in a forest. He is the fifth land defender to be murdered in the country in 2023.

Alfredo Cisneros: Fifth Mexican Environmentalist Assassinated in 2023

Alfredo Cisneros Madrigal, indigenous leader and forest defender in Michoacán, Mexico was murdered on February 23. He is the fifth environmental defender to be murdered in the country so far this year.

Axomalli Villanueva

March 13, 2023

Lula Visits Biden to Repair Relations with U.S. Imperialism

Brazilian President Lula's U.S. visit shows that he's focused on maintaining the interests of Brazilian capital while aligning with U.S. imperialism and being careful not to alienate Beijing.

Caio Reis

February 16, 2023

SOUTHCOM Chief Aims to Increase Imperialist Plunder of Latin America’s Resources

U.S. Southern Command Chief Laura Richardson has expressed interest in lithium and other natural resources in South America. It shows the country’s commitment to corporate profits at the expense of workers, Indigenous people, and the environment.

Luigi Morris

January 26, 2023

The Peruvian Uprising: Massive Protests Demand the Fall of the Coup Regime and a Constituent Assembly

Peru has erupted in a massive uprising demanding that President Dina Boluarte resign, that the current Congress be shut down, and that a new constitution be established. The protests are the culmination of years of political oppression of the country’s indigenous communities, drastic poverty rates and precarity for Peru’s workers and poor, and a political regime that continues the legacy of Alberto Fujimori’s dictatorship.


A group of protesters, in the front of whom are a line of protesters wearing red vests. In the front right corner, a white sign reds "vive la retraite," with a skeleton wearing a red hat in the middle of the sign on a black background with a text bubble on its left that reads, "oiv a bosse, c'est pas pour en crever!"

“French March”: The Right to Revolutionary Optimism

Evoking memories of '68, the students enter the fight against Macron. In our chaotic world, the future can only be built in the streets.

Eduardo Castillo

March 26, 2023

Joe Biden Is Deporting Russians Who Escaped Putin’s Draft — Let Them All In!

The United States is deporting Russians who sought asylum following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is a heinous attack against war resisters and shows that the proxy war in Ukraine is about capitalist rivalry first and foremost.

Sam Carliner

March 26, 2023

On Monday, Germany Will Experience a “Mega-Strike”

On March 27, German railway workers and public sector employees will shut down the whole country. All trains are being canceled. Airports, freeways, hospitals, and daycare centers will all be affected.

Nathaniel Flakin

March 25, 2023

France: On the Frontlines of the War Against Austerity

The French masses have raised the banner of class struggle in what is becoming the first major battle against austerity after the pandemic. Working people across the world should pay attention.

James Dennis Hoff

March 25, 2023