Conclusion: Labour and the Ambiguities of Power

  • Marieke Riethof
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


The fortunes of the Brazilian union movement have reflected the country’s recent political history in many significant respects, particularly the conflicts that emerged from labour’s active participation in a rapidly changing political environment. Although trade unions became a formidable opponent to military rule in the 1970s and 1980s, like many other labour organizations around the world, they also faced the debilitating effects of the economic crisis which continued into the 1990s. In the 2000s, this political dynamic changed when Lula was elected to the presidency, providing union representatives with unprecedented access to political influence, but also creating intractable conflicts when government policies clashed with labour interests. Since the late 2000s, Brazilian politics has witnessed a renewed wave of labour mobilization and political polarization, which spread to the wider Brazilian population during the mass demonstrations that have taken place from 2013 onwards. The concluding chapter focuses on the argument that the political dilemmas evident in organized labour’s political agenda can explain these waves of political polarization and moderation. The union movement’s political engagement has therefore shaped key political events, as evident in organized labour’s key political role from the democratic transition to the left coming to power. Instead of facing inevitable decline in the face of globalization, workers’ political influence should therefore not be discounted.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marieke Riethof
    • 1
  1. 1.Modern Languages and Cultures/Latin American StudiesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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