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The headquarters must stay! São Paulo’s subway workers occupy their union building to resist repossession

The company has filed an urgent application for repossession and requested the use of police force

From the Editorial Staff

São Paulo’s ‘metroviários’ and ‘metroviárias’ (subway workers) are in a tough battle to defend their union’s headquarters and leisure area, located in the East Zone of the city of São Paulo. The management of the Metrô and the São Paulo state government of João Doria put the buildings up for sale in an auction on April 28, and are demanding that the union vacate the buildings by 22 June. These decisions are part of a political attack aimed directly at the resistance and organization of subway workers. The workers are refusing to leave, have occupied the headquarters, and are intensifying their campaign of solidarity.

The government of João Doria, leader of the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), has filed a request for the repossession of the buildings. This request demands the return of these sites and asks for police help including, if necessary, the breaking of the occupation. This request was accepted by the courts on 24 June and has laid down a deadline of five days to comply.

Late on the afternoon of 23 June, subway workers held a rally at the union’s headquarters and then proceeded to march down the Avenida Radial-Leste [https://www.facebook.com/travessiacoletivosindicalepopular/videos/326597995736104], a major arterial road connecting São Paulo’s East Zone to the city center. The procession included contingents from social movements such as the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST), and trade union centers such as the radical CSP-Conlutas federation and the Workers’ Central of Brazil (CTB, linked to the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB)). There were also parliamentarians from the ‘Bancada Feminista do PSOL’ (PSOL Feminist Caucus), the five-member collective mandate of Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) members, and representatives from other left-wing parties and organizations. The demonstration served to send a message to the government, that there will be resistance.

Demonstration on the Avenida Radial-Leste. Photo: Paulo Iannone / Sindicato dos Metroviários de SP

Subway workers have recently come out of a wage campaign, which included a 24-hour strike. These workers are now asking for as much solidarity as possible. “We are suffering from an extremely serious, authoritarian, and anti-democratic threat. They want to try to take away the building that was built by the workers’ own hands, in order to attack our resistance”, Camila Lisboa explained. Lisboa is one of three general coordinators of the Sindicato dos Metroviários de São Paulo (Subway Workers’ Union of São Paulo), and a member of the Resistência (Resistance) current in PSOL. The hashtags #eurespeitoosmetroviarios (#Irespectsubwayworkers) and #euapoioosmetroviarios (#Isupportsubwayworkers) can be used to show your support on social media networks.

The São Paulo state government claims that falling passenger numbers means that financial resources are needed to stave off a potential financial crisis. The union refutes this claim. It says it is just an excuse, and points to the huge sum of money recently handed to the Metrô by the transport and infrastructure company CCR for the concession for two Metrô lines.

Watch the message from Camila Lisboa

‘A Casa Metroviária’ (The Subway Workers’ House)

The land where the union building is located was ceded to the union by the Companhia do Metropolitano de São Paulo (Metrô) in 1987 under a free-lease contract. This contract has been renewed and altered several times. This concession was only for the land and not the building, which was built by subway workers, and all property tax (IPTU) on the land has been paid by the union. The Metrô did not want to renew the contract last year, but after negotiation, the contract was renewed for one year to October 2021.

The headquarters of the Sindicato dos Metroviários de São Paulo (Subway Workers’ Union of São Paulo) was inaugurated on 8 December 1990, with the buildings constructed and maintained through the finances of subway workers. The site has a multi-sports court, music studio, rooms, and a leisure area. Over the years, these spaces have held numerous activities such as rallies, assemblies, congresses, sports events, and parties. Many artists, parliamentarians, intellectuals, social movements, and organizations passed through and were received at these historic workers’ headquarters. The government’s decision has been condemned by parliamentarians, trade unions, and union centers.

On 26 April, just one day before the first negotiation meeting of this year’s wage campaign, the Metrô sent a letter to the subway union asking for the union’s headquarters, on Rua Serra do Japi near the Tatuapé Metrô station, be handed over within 60 days.

This article is an English translation of “A sede fica! Metroviários de SP ocupam prédio do sindicato e prometem resistir à reintegração de posse”, [https://esquerdaonline.com.br/2021/06/24/a-sede-fica-metroviarios-de-sp-ocupam-predio-do-sindicato-e-prometem-resistir-a-reintegracao-de-posse/], Esquerda Online (EOL), 24/06/2021.

Translation: Bobby Sparks

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