Paloma dos Santos, president of the Union of the Cleaning Services Workers of Santos City and Region (Sindilimpeza-Sindicato dos trabalhadores em asseio e conservação da baixada santista) from Brazil, is at the AFL-CIO 2017 Convention this week and is part of the Brazil-Kenya women's delegation.
Brazil's comprehensive labor laws have long provided a strong institutional framework for unions to defend workers' rights. Changes pushed through Congress this July by Brazil's un-elected president and a Congress compromised by corruption charges have greatly undermined the labor laws and will drastically change the legal context in which Brazil's unions work.
By some accounts, this drastic overhauling of Brazilian labor law places the country on a path toward something more similar to the U.S. reality, weakening collective bargaining and unions' financial stability. While the comprehensive labor law was flawed, these changes cannot be called reforms.
They are expected to deeply affect women, people of color and many workers who were long excluded from these protections.
We are living moments of great loss, at work and in life.
In the case of Assaio e Conservação, women are the ones who are being hit the hardest because of outsourcing and the new labor reform, approved in the Brazilian National Congress, that takes countless workers' rights, a decision of total regression.
One of the consequences of changing these labor laws is that pregnant women will be working in unhealthy areas, which was previously against the law.
Another important issue that we work on daily is the issue of gender violence. Many of our women workers suffer violence at home and sometimes cannot return to work because they are hurt and embarrassed. Another situation we deal with is the issue of rape, which most of the time happens to women on their way to work.
We try to raise the awareness of these workers in the best possible way, through pamphlets and referrals to specific guidelines. The fight for women's rights, equality and parity at work is every day, every hour.