Yesterday, in São Bernardo do Campo, in the Greater São Paulo, Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva commemorated the 30th anniversary of his inauguration as president of the ABC Metalworkers’ Union.
The ceremony, which was held at the union’s headquarters, brought together around 750 union members, ex-directors, and union employees.
Lula greeted his former companions by name, recalled important moments in his career as union leader, and declared: “Here in this union we learned the art of negotiation, the art of the possible.”
The President recalled the persecution suffered by the workers. “Practicing unionism was very different then. The political moment was very delicate. Words were weighed, and bulletins were monitored.”
The strikes, he said, were necessary to make the bosses see that the workers were “prepared.” And he added: “I am asked why there aren’t as many strikes as there used to be. [It is] because, when workers are organized, it is unnecessary to have constant strikes.”
According to Lula, workers are much more prepared at present. “The group that’s working in the factory today has a lot more education than we did. In my era, when you had a diploma from the Senai (National Industrial Apprenticeship Service), a course as a toolmaker or lathe operator, that was the most you could hope for .
“Nowadays, our grandchildren and our children are in the factories studying law, philosophy, and sociology.”
He recalled that when he was invited to visit a factory, the union newsletter was circulating along the production line, and each worker picked up a copy.
“I remarked, wow, how things have changed! In my era, we had to confront the police and break through barriers just to deliver a newsletter,” he recounted.
And he added: “We were very persistent, since we managed to create a union consciousness here.”
Lula said that he was moved and confessed that he was prepared to cry but decided that it was not a time for tears.
“What is gratifying after all these years is to see each one rooting for the team he wants to root for, each one believing in the party he wants to believe in, each one preferring the religion of his choice.
“What we accomplished in these 30 years was to give a demonstration of political wisdom, of not sacrificing our relationship as friends because of our differences,” the President declared.