RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – If you live or have traveled to Brazil lately you know how expensive it is here. I pay more for my apartment now then I ever did in New York, granted we make our own choices, but the rub is – in Brazil the minimum wage is still just R$622 (US$345) per month.
The government acknowledges that although they are now the sixth largest economy in the world, it may take twenty years for the standard of living to reach that of its peers of ‘developed’ economic powers.
It is nice for them to acknowledge the disparity, but the money is coming in NOW, and you see it all around in the hands of some. So how does a democratic society make change happen faster then the slow wheels of elected representation? … strikes.
According to our friends Wikimedia, the strike tactic first appeared under Pharaoh Ramses III in ancient Egypt on 14 November 1152 BC, the artisans of the Royal Necropolis at Deir el-Medina organized the first known strike or workers’ uprising.
In 1937 there were 4,740 strikes in the United States, the largest wave of strikes in U.S. labor history – during a period of depression and high unemployment.
In the UK, some quick research seems to point to the General Strike of 1926 as the largest. The irony here was that in these hard economic times, the coal miners came out worse off then they went into this one.
Brazil has a different situation, the booming economy has money pouring in from every corner and although the “middle class” is growing, the gap between the rich and the rest is growing faster then ever it seems.
I saw a Maserati in Santa Teresa the other week – this is a US$120,000 vehicle (and much more to import to Brazil) – white, convertible, red leather interior, very nice.
The point is, Brazilian workers have been striking to get a fair share of the new found wealth seeping into the country. The latest is a teacher strike getting started in the Federal District in Brasília.
I’m no communist, but I do get some satisfaction from the idea that the working man can get some leverage and results against the high walls of the wealthy… but of course, I don’t have a Maserati.