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Cablegate: Labor Leaders' Positive Outlook

VZCZCXRO8871
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0601/01 2861757
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131757Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9680
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0812
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 4437
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 9278
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 3663
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 0048
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2975
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0046
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 4155

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SAO PAULO 000601

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, EEB/IFD/ODF, INR/IAA, INR/R/AA
USAID FOR LAC/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI SCUL EFIN ECON PREL BR

SUBJECT: LABOR LEADERS' POSITIVE OUTLOOK

REF: (A) BRASILIA 1201 (B) SAO PAULO 70

1. (SBU) Summary: In recent discussions, Sao Paulo labor leaders
were positive on the voice of unions in Brazilian economic policy.
Sector representatives praised U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)
Kirk's September 16 visit, expressing gratitude for his interest in
their views on trade but indicated their own interest in better
understanding the U.S. trade agenda. At the same time some
expressed skepticism that any U.S. trade agreement with Brazil could
advance in the closing year of the Lula Administration. Beyond
trade, the unionists also discussed their efforts to better organize
Brazil's substantial informal sector and the challenges facing large
employment sectors such as sugarcane cutting. Finally, the trade
representatives expressed interest in obtaining English language
training for young leaders, a possibly promising area of future
engagement. End Summary.

Deepening Contacts with Labor

2. (U) Over the last two months post has reached out to labor
representatives in Sao Paulo, home to Brazil's major unions, to
obtain a better understanding of organized labor's views on the
economy, trade relations, and the 2010 elections. On October 2,
post hosted a lunch for visiting Brasilia Laboff Fred Kaplan and
several of these new contacts. In attendance were: Ivan Gonzalez,
Political Coordinator, Trade Union Confederation of the
Americas(TUCA); Braz Agostinho Albertini, President, Federation of
Agricultural Workers of the State of Sao Paulo(FETAESP); Joao Carlos
Goncalves Juruna, Secretary General, Union Movement (FS); Ortelio
Palacio Cuesta, International Affairs Secretary, Union Movement
(FS); Lourenco Ferreira do Prado, President, General Union of
Workers (UGT); Caninde Pegado, Secretary General, UGT; Silvia
Portela, International Affairs Advisor, Sole Center of Workers
(CUT); and Brian Finnegan, Country Programs Director, AFL-CIO
Solidarity Center.

THANKS FOR USTR VISIT BUT MORE DETAIL SOUGHT

3. (SBU) The contacts expressed considerable satisfaction at USTR
Kirk's recent visit to Brazil, noting it was a good sign of the
positive relationship between the U.S. and Brazil. FS and CUT reps,
who attended a September 16 roundtable with USTR Kirk hosted by the
Consul General, appreciated the opportunity to engage Ambassador
Kirk directly. CUT's Silvia Portela applauded USTR Kirk's
willingness to listen to labor concerns on trade issues, while UGT
Vice President Lourenco Prado appreciated the opportunity to "debunk
the misperception" that free trade automatically benefits all
participants. (Note: Brazil's labor leaders hold
protectionist/pro-industrial policy views. Nonetheless, they proved
knowledgeable and eager to engage the USTR during his recent visit,
a sign we see as positive. End Note.) The only negative was that
several participants mentioned they would have liked to hear more
detail from USTR on President Obama's trade agenda.

PROSPECTS FOR REGIONAL TRADE AND MERCOSUL

4. (SBU) In various side conversations with Consulate officers, the
union leaders expressed eagerness to learn more about President
Obama's vision on trade. UGT representative Lourenco said most
unions in Brazil expected a Democratic administration in the United
States to be more protectionist, but were optimistic the Obama
Administration aimed to expand trade amidst the global economic
crisis. Nevertheless, CUT representative Portela suggested that a
bilateral or regional trade agreement with the United States stood
little chance of moving forward in the last year of the Lula
Administration. Meanwhile, Portela, who also serves as an
international coordinator for unions in Mercosul trade bloc
countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) said she was
confident Venezuela would become part of Mercosul in the very near
future. (Note: Countervailing this optimism, on October 1 the
Brazilian Senate Foreign Relations Committee suspended for thirty
days a vote on Venezuela's incorporation into Mercosul due to
concerns over violations of democratic freedoms in Venezuela. End
Note.)

ORGANIZING THE INFORMAL SECTOR

5. (U) Many of the unionists discussed efforts to better engage
Brazilians who are either not unionized or who work in the informal
sector. For example, they cited outreach to the garment industry in

SAO PAULO 00000601 002 OF 002


Sao Paulo, which is a major pillar of the local informal economy.
According to Ortelio Prado of FS, his union is reaching out to
workers in the clothing and shoe industries and to independent
seamstresses. The CUT has enjoyed recent success in organizing
overwhelmingly female domestic workers.

THE EXTINCTION OF CANE CUTTERS AND OTHER AGRICULTURAL ISSUES

6. (SBU) Similarly, the sugar industry has very low rates of labor
organization. According to FETAESP's Braz Albertino, employers
prefer to pay by the amount of cane cut rather than set a fixed
hourly wage rate. Consequently, workers who can cut more cane favor
this system. Agreements with sugar cane growers' associations and
recent legislation in several states mandate the mechanization of
cane cutting by 2014. This will force many cane cutters, many of
whom have low education levels and no other marketable skills, out
of work and into cities in search of employment. Albertini welcomed
the long-term environmental benefits of mechanization, but deplored
the lack of resources and programs provided so far to cane cutters
to prepare them for this shift. Voicing the frustration of some
cutters, he complained "there are more laws governing the protection
of farm animals than cane cutters."

A REQUEST FOR HELP

7. (U) The Sao Paulo labor leaders have welcomed post outreach and
requested the Consulate's help providing English language and
exchange opportunities to deepen the international exposure of
Brazilian union leaders. Specifically, CUT representative Portela,
a former International Visitor's Program (IVP) participant, inquired
about the availability of Consulate-supported English language
courses. Similarly, FS showed keen interest in exchanges to send
union youth to the United States for educational and work-related
programs.

COMMENT: IN THE LOOP

8. (U) Despite current global economic challenges and a round of
recent strikes in the banking, automotive, and express delivery
sectors, the sentiments expressed by labor union contacts to USTR
Kirk and in recent Consulate follow-up underscore that under the
Lula Administration organized labor feels their voice is being heard
on social, political and economic issues. As Brazil exits the
economic crisis and moves toward the 2010 national elections,
organized labor will have further opportunity to expand its
influence.

9. (U) This cable was coordinated/cleared by Embassy Brasilia.

WHITE

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