Class Struggle Caucus Bulletin No. 2     September 1997 
Brazil: Against Any Kind of
"Union Tax"

The following is a translation of Bulletin No. 2 (September 1997) of the Comitê de Luta Classista (CLC--Class Struggle Caucus, initiated by our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil). This bulletin, revealing the attempt to loot workers’ pension funds and the role of the pro-police group of Artur Fernandes, was the object of the “search and seizure” order issued by a Volta Redonda court at the behest of the Fernandes clique’s lawyer, Vanise Alves de Carvalho, in a suit filed by the former Municipal Secretary of the city government. The judicial mafia reacted furiously due to the commotion set off among Volta Redonda workers by the CLC leaflet’s exposure of the lucrative rake-off. 

In 1994, the Volta Redonda Municipal Workers Union (SFPMVR) sued the city government demanding that it free up workers’ pension funds. The Popular Front administration had been refusing to pay into the funds, pleading lack of money. The issue has become even hotter as laid-off workers have insistently demanded access to the funds as their main source of severance pay. But when the courts finally ordered the city to pay up last June, lawyers in connivance with Fernandes smelled a rich source of loot. In the context of president Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s all-out assault against public workers, the defense of pension funds has become a hot issue in Brazil, which has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world and virtually no functioning unemployment insurance. The CUT labor federation opposed Fernandes & Co.’s scheme as breaking the unions’ stand against this anti-worker assault. 

The “union tax” referred to in the leaflet is a system of government control over union finances originally established by the 1930-45 corporatist regime of Getúlio Vargas. 

In 1994 the SFPMVR (Volta Redonda Municipal Workers Union) launched a legal action in the 7th federal district court to free up public workers’ pension funds (FGTS). Judge Maria Salete Maccaloz issued an injunction (No. 93.0011061/6) freeing up the fund but not agreeing with the 10 percent fee for the lawyers at that time. Geraldo [Ribeiro] and Marcello Lázaro said that from then on the suit should be carried out by the union’s legal department. 

After the hearing Geraldo Ribeiro, in a discussion with the SFPMVR’s lawyer, Dr. Vanise Alves de Carvalho, asked her to correct the error committed in the past and undertake the defense of the municipal workers herself. Vanise said she was not in a position to undertake that wide-ranging a suit. Knowing the judge’s position and the incompetence of the SFPMVR’s lawyer, the union hired two lawyers who would be paid 500 reals [approximately $500] apiece per month to deal with this issue. We are opposed to the lawyers charging workers 15 percent [of recovered pension money], and maintain that the union should cover the fees. 

Today, the pro-police faction of Artur, seeking the city workers’ money, is charging 15 percent of funds won by the sweat and efforts of the majority of the workers, and even charges those who are members of the union. This faction broke the contract with the lawyers who were receiving a retainer, and they have now sued the union, causing a loss of about 3,000 reals. 

The pro-police faction ties city workers’ hands so they can be robbed by the judicial mafia, and provides a cover for corruption in the union. Ask: 1) Why is it that up to the present no kind of balance sheet has been shown of the union’s accounts? 2) What happened to the 8,032 reals in the union’s savings account? 3) Why is it that none of the payments were made on the union’s van, which was therefore repossessed? 4) Why did they never prove their accusations against Geraldo Ribeiro, the president legitimately elected by the city workers? 

All this, city worker, is part of the faction’s obscure maneuvers in the union. Don’t keep quiet! Get this faction’s hands out of your pockets. Don’t pay the 15 percent. Don’t let City Hall manipulate your union dues! Fight for a union independent of the government and bosses, and for class independence. 

Point 1 of the program of the Comitê de Luta Classista says the following: 

    “Complete and unconditional independence of the trade unions from the capitalist state. Against any intervention or interference by the bourgeois ‘justice’ system in the union. We repudiate any and all control by the government (ministries, ‘justice’ system, parliament, police, etc.) over the workers movement. It is the workers who decide. Union dues must be freed from the dues check-off controlled by the state and the bosses and be paid directly to the union, so the workers will control the union’s money. Against the ‘union tax,’ ‘labor federation tax,’ etc. We condemn the traitors who ‘invite’ the bourgeois courts into the unions.”

Model letter refusing to pay the lawyers’ fees: 
To the leadership of the Volta Redonda Municipal Workers Union. 
I, _______, enrollment number _____, from sector ___ of public workers of the municipality of Volta Redonda, employed by the city government, present this document to speak out against the payment of an amount equal to 15 percent of the pension funds in the Federal Economic Savings Bank for lawyers’ fees. If this was already done, I request the amount be immediately returned. I also point out that the workers, including those who are not union members, have a right to free legal assistance. This authoritarianism does not help raise the consciousness of the working class. 

The fake-Trotskyists of the LBI (Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista), which the pro-police coup faction of Artur Fernandes belongs to, is using the hands of the bourgeois state to rip off the workers’ money. This means trampling on the principles of the working class. 

The position of the national CUT [labor federation] for all affiliated unions is against charging lawyers’ fees. 

ICL Seeks to Sabotage Defense of Brazilian Trotskyist Workers  

CLC Bulletin No. 4 (International Workers Solidarity with CLC)