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On the Eve of the World Cup, Sao Paulo Subway Workers' Strike Goes South

No to the World Cup

This post, written Tuesday night, live from Sao Paulo, captures the spirit of the moment. Hours later, on the eve of the World Cup, Sao Paulo subway workers vote no on a strike.

Tonight at midnight we should know if the subway workers union will strike again, effectively cutting off the main form of transportation to the opening game Stadium, the red subway line, which travels East through the city taking people from the epicenter of Sao Paulo near Av. Paulista to where the game will take place, at Corinthians-Itaquera. 

The police created a 2 km radius "freeze-zone" around the Stadium to protect against protestors, but the greatest weakness in the security detail might not be from stereotyped black-blocs or cardboard signs, but rather an auspicious conjoining of forces. the radicalized labor movement, students and specially the Passe Livre anarchists ‪#‎together‬ might be an explosive formula to put down the state-capitalist goliath. 

During their first strike about a week ago, the metroviarios demanded "padrao FIFA" (FIFA Standard) transportation for the people, as well as better salaries and working conditions. many stations were closed or picketed, causing city-wide chaos in traffic costing people's medical appointments, schools had to close earlier, a mayhem. 

The judicial branch intervened, siding with the right-wing governor and the financial class that simply can't afford this Copa do Mundo to fail and dictated that the strike was "abusive" and therefore the union was sentenced to terminate the strike or face a daily fine of R$ 500,000 per day, about US$ 220,000 per day. 

Choked financially, the union scheduled an emergency general assembly to decide the future of the movement this Wednesday, specially eager to discuss solidarity measures for reinstatement of the 42 workers fired in the beginning of the strike last week for using the PA system to promote the strike. 

This event radicalized the workers. With the solidarity of other important issue-based social movements, like Passe Livre, the transportation-issue movement that sparked the June demonstrations of 2013, they threatened to strike again on the opening day of the World Cup if subway management and the governor did not hire their comrades back by midnight this Wednesday. With no indication that Geraldo Alckmin, the Governor of Sao Paulo, will back down and accept this demand, another strike is imminent. Or at least a huge mess on the making when the anarchist black-blocs do what they do very well: direct action. 

Without the red line, the main artery that communicates the downtown area with Corinthians-Itaquera where the game will be, the vicinities of the Stadium might turn out to be a living hell, since other road alternatives aren't capable to absorb the extra amount of traffic coming and going to the newly founded Stadium if the subway line is somehow compromised.

For the Governor, the only way to avoid the shame of players being parachuted by choppers in the stadium and playing for empty stands is to use the riot police to guarantee safe passage. Right-of-way either to the workers crossing the picket line if the strike happens or to clear road blocks made by protestors. He already used this tactic, and nothing suggests he won't do it again. 

The key advantage that labor and radicalized youth have in this scenario is the impossibility for police to kettle an entire railroad track heading east to the Stadium connecting downtown Sao Paulo to the outskirt of the city. 300 or so radicalized workers and/or protestors could burn piles of trash or tires on the tracks and effectively stopping the trains. If shit goes South, the saying goes, radicals might jump in groups on the tracks to force the trains to a halt. 

This might be another David vs Goliath story. The next few hours will tell.

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