Brazil’s most influential trucking union, MUBC, which is based in Rio de Janiero, called for a strike which started on Monday by those in the trucking industry. In spite of the fact that the union called for a passive protest, toll booths were set on fire and traffic was crippled in a number of states across Brazil. Unlike northern countries such as the United States which transports crops by trucks, boats and rail, Brazil’s principal means of crop transportation is by truck.
This strike comes on the wave of other protests that began in mid June against transportation fare hikes, high taxes, high spending for the World Cup and poor public services. The trucking strike that started on Monday was joined by other protesters demanding free public transportation, a reduction in the number of hours in the work week, rent controls and the earmarking of additional funds for education. The strikes of the recent weeks are making a mark as Brazil’s largest demonstrations in 20 years. This has also caused a plunge in popularity of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.
The trucking union has asked for a subsidy on diesel fuel, exemption from paying highway tolls, better highways and creation of a new government department for cargo transportation. With harvest season ending, the strike is slowing down transportation of this years’ record production of corn, sugar and soybeans. The truckers have been slowing traffic on main highways around Sao Paolo and in some cases blocking traffic completely. Injunctions have been issued to prevent those in truck driver jobs from blocking public highways.
A strike of just a few days does not have much effect on commodity exports out of nearby Santo. Grain exporters normally store grains for transport in private storage units in order to minimize interruptions from ground transporters. However, a longer strike would affect the flow of goods to some of the more populated parts of the country, causing fears of higher food prices and disruptions in fuel supplies.
The MUBC trucker strike is unrelated to other demonstrations by Brazilian protesters about corruption, public services, transportation and health care. The spokeswoman for the trucking union has not confirmed that the protest would end as scheduled, despite repeated requests to respond with a confirmation. The trucker strike appeared to be winding down as of Wednesday and is scheduled to end early on Thursday morning which will allow drivers to return to their truck driving jobs and free up traffic congestion on the country’s major roads.