Argentina:
Brukman workers kicked out of factory they ran

May 12, 2003

On April 21 the Buenos Aires police violently attacked demonstrators who had come to protest the expulsion of workers from the Brukman factory. There were 20 wounded and a hundred arrests.

The Brukman factory makes men's suits. It includes fifty women workers who sew the suits and a few men who cut the cloth. After the Brukman brothers abandoned it, the factory was reopened by the workers at the end of 2001. The workers were able to cover costs and pay their wages, which wasn't so bad in the difficult situation the country was going through. This was one of the leading workplaces taken over by the workers' movement, which has taken over dozens of businesses when the bosses failed due to the collapse of the economy. They have often been small businesses, but not always.

A judge allowed the occupation to continue and said that the business's future would be dealt with later. At the request of the old owners, another judge authorized the police intervention. Early in the morning, on the day before Easter, the police ejected some workers who were present. This action led to a demonstration by various movements that advocate "business takeovers," unionists, the unemployed movement and militants of the various extreme left organizations. Several thousand people came to support the Brukman workers.

Several weeks ago, the Zanon ceramic business, which was also prominent in the movement of "business takeovers," was similarly threatened with a police takeover but the government finally backed off due to the mobilization.

This tough police crackdown occurred a week before the election for the president of Argentina. The campaign includes the Peronist candidate Kirchner, but also Menem, the former Peronist president, and a right wing candidate, Lopez Murphy. Several hypotheses circulate on the reason for this police intervention.

The working class voters can't count on any of the three candidates who have the most chance of winning the election. The workers can count only on their own forces, as the Brukman workers have done. They still hope to be able to reoccupy their work place, thanks to the mobilization.