Justice sentences fomer Metalworker Union president to prison for organizing the defense of GM jobs

Antônio Ferreira de Barros, known as “Macapá”, was sentenced to 16 days in jail in the fist instance. Our Union will appeal against this antidemocratic decision

Federal Justice has sentenced the former president of the Metalworkers Union of São José dos Campos and Region, Antônio Ferreira de Barros (Macapá), for what they call a “crime of disobedience”. The reason would be a so-called failure to comply with a court decision which forbade the occupation of Presidente Dutra Highway during workers’ movements. The sentence has been made by the 3a Federal Branch of São José dos Campos.

Macapá was convicted arbitrarily to 16 days in hail for defending, when he was president of the Union, the jobs of the workers at the General Motors plant.

In August 2015 the metalworkers began a strike that paralyzed the entire production line against the firing, on the eve of Fathers’ Day, of 798 employees. The stoppage, one of the most important of our category, managed to cancel the layoffs.

As part of the movement that ended up in victory, the workers occupied the Dutra Highway with a demonstration on August 14, 2015. It was a national demonstration, that reunited representatives of trade unions, political parties, parlamentarians and even the mayor of the city. It also reunited nearly all striking metalworkers. Justice used this event to claim disobedience against a civil public action that had happened two years before that, which imposed an “obligation of not blocking, stopping or disrupting traffic on the Presidente Dutra Highway and its marginal roads, by any means, throughout its entire extension”.

The Federal Justice’s decision is arbitrary because not only it disregards the important struggle in defense of jobs on our region, it also interpreted the validity of a prohibition against the Union as permanent. The sentence also attacks the right to manifestation, a fundamental principle of the Constitution.

The Metalworkers Union of São José dos Campos and Region repudiates this decision and informes it will appeal against what it considers an arbitrary act and a threat against the free organization of the working class. This is an attack not only on an individual, but on the Union as a whole and, consequentially, on a category of workers that is famously combative and knows its rights well.

Unfortunately, this is not the first case in which the legitimate struggle of the metaworkers is being criminalized. In another decision, Macapá was also convicted, this time by the State Justice, for defending the rights, the jobs and a wage increase of the workers of Eaton, in 2016. At the time there was a strike due to the Salary Campaign, but the company called on the Military Police to intimidate the legitimate movement of the workers. The policemen were brutal with the union leaders. Macapá and the Union appealed and the process is now in the second instance, in the São Paulo Court of Justice.

Antônio Macapá is part of the Metalworkers Union of São José dos Campos and Region since 2009 and was its president for two tenures, as well as its secretary-general. A militant of the United Socialist Workers’ Party (PSTU) and of the International Workers’ League (LIT), he is also a member of the leadership of union federation CSP-Conlutas in the Paraiba Valley and the São Paulo State. The comrade ran for federal Congressman and has always dedicated his life to fighting against social injustices in our country and the world.

Protest is not a crime

Given the attacks on the part of Justice attempting to criminalize workers’ struggles and a wider context in which the democratic rights of our country are being threatened, we call on unions, labour federations, political parties and other segments of civil society to join the campaign to demand the annulment of comrade Macapá’s conviction.

We cannot accept that leaders who defend the working class be victims of this type of attack. We must fight the persecution that is being realized by Justice to comrades throughout Brazil, as, for example, what we are seeing in the jailing of Paulo Galo and other activists because of the burning of a monument that homages the murderous bandeirante Borba Gato.

The Metalworkers Union repeats that the criminalization of workers’ movements and strikes is a civilization backwardness, and Justice demonstrates this with its sentencing of Macapá. We cannot bow to the attacks on our freedoms, or on the curtailment of the sacred right to protest. Thus, we will continue to organize the struggle of the workers in defense of rights and jobs. No to Macapá’s arrest! For the immediate nullification of the sentence!

August 13, 2021

Metalworkers’ Union of São José dos Campos and Region

Photo: Tanda Melo

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