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José Pacheco dos Santos Júnior on the Documents of the Labor Court in Brazil

On October 9th, 1967, Uady Bulos, lawyer and representative of Roberto Ramos, a Brazilian single minor boy, visited the office of the Labor Court in Vitória da Conquista (Bahia, Brazil), and recorded a labor complaint against his customer’s workplace, a Regional Radio Station. Bulos claimed that the young man was unjustly suspended services for five days, under the allegation that he had gone to the company in a condition of drunkenness on a Sunday. The failure of the employer to comply with the Consolidation of Labor Laws (CLT), that guaranteed the payment of minimum wage for workers, was also recorded in the initial papers of the lawsuit by the young worker’s lawyer.

The outcome of litigation, only eleven days after initiation, was an agreement between the parties. Despite the jurisdiction of initial petition defined as NCr$ 400,00 (four hundred Cruzeiros Novos), Roberto accepted to receive NCr$ 280,00 (two hundred and eighty Cruzeiros Novos) divided into five benefits. In addition, the young man agreed to return to work with the guarantee of receiving the regional minimum wage – one of the demands of his lawyer – though in weekly benefits.

This legal world embodied by singularities of the Brazilian Labor Court opened up a breach to the record of situations that could disappear by the time, as the story that opens this text. Records of children and youth in the labor world and their claims in the courts, which demonstrate the boldness and courage of these minor workers in documenting the conflicts experienced in their workplaces and the dilemmas that probably live through the first employment, corroborate the importance of the documentation of the Labor Court for historical research in Brazil.

Since the end of the 1970s, the use of these sources, as well as the reports and complaints of workers in the Labor Judiciary, has made possible a shift away from the paradigms that only showed the domination of workers by the dominant class, and raised the new epistemological trends pursued by the Historiography of Work in Brazil. Since then, several studies have embraced the everyday life and the various forms of struggle of the Brazilian workers by the accomplishment of the rights that they had at the CLT, as well as the common law that had granted them.

However, it is crucial to remember the struggle that many researchers, practitioners of Law, academic associations and universities have advocated for an effective policy for the preservation of documents of the Labor Court, which under the guaranty of Law 7.627, passed on November 10th, 1987, allows the judges of courts the power to remove lawsuits more than five years old, from the date of the filing of the claim, through incineration, mechanical destruction, or other appropriate means.

I hereby come again to affirm what I emphasized in the paper "The Right to Claim: Children and Youth Workers in Labor Court at the Time of the Civil-Military Dictatorship (Southwestern Bahia, Brazil)", issued in JHCY (Volume 6, Number 3, Fall 2013):

the rich opportunity for reflection that opens with the preservation and effective use of sources of labor courts.

Thus, contemplating in its thematic field, the manifold role that the Labor Court played – and plays – as an institution, representative of the State, dedicated at the mediation of labor disputes. Immanent in the analysis about the complaints of children and young people in the Labor Court, is the contribution that might be issued to the historical literature dedicated at the child and adolescent labor in the twentieth-century Brazil, contemplating claims, negotiating strategies, and the various readings and interpretations of the legal text.

About the Author

José Pacheco dos Santos Jr. is a graduate student (master’s degree) in Economic History at University of São Paulo (USP-Brazil) and researcher at the Laboratory of Social History of Labor in the State University of Southwest Bahia (LHIST / UESB). His research interests are: History of Childhood and Youth, History of Law, Economic History and Social History of Labor, with an emphasis on child labor in the twentieth century, labor laws and Labor Court in Brazil at the time of the civil-military dictatorship. He has a research grant from Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES).

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