Monthly Archives: October 2019

7 Oct. 2019 — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100
Eyal Weinberg (UT Institute for Historical Studies)
“White Coats with Blue Collars: When Physicians and Autoworkers Joined Forces in the Struggle for Brazilian Labor Rights, Health, and Democracy, 1978-1982”
Interweaving histories of medicine and labor in Latin America, the paper explores the doctors’ strike movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the context of economic downturn and social unrest challenging Brazil’s military dictatorship, physicians mobilized in demand for better salaries, improved working conditions, and public health reform. Coming from the upper-middle classes and historically defined as liberal professionals, Brazil’s doctors often eschewed “inappropriate” protest tactics to distinguish themselves from manual workers. But frustration over substantial wage deflation and loss of job security led many physicians to depart from the liberal tradition and consider themselves employees subjected to unfair labor practices. They not only engaged in blue collar tactics—unionizing in large numbers and leading massive hospital strikes—but also allied with working-class struggles, particularly those of Brazil’s metalworkers. The collaboration rankled the regime’s officials, who were concerned both by the possibility of paralyzed hospitals and especially by the political threat of an emerging cross-class alliance calling for democratic reform. The paper examines the historical settings leading to the unusual cooperation across sectors and reveals the dictatorship’s considerable efforts to curb the protest’s momentum.
Eyal Weinberg is a postdoctoral fellow at UT’s Institute for Historical Studies. He received his Ph.D. from UT in 2019. His research explores histories of medicine, health, political violence, and human rights in Latin America, with a focus on Brazil.
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