May 1 is an important date for trade union movements around the world. And this year, Brazil saw all of its trade union centers share the same stage for the first time in history. While this is partly down to a lack of funds to host events themselves—in order to entice people to spend their holidays listening to politicians, unions usually hire big-time singers to pump up the crowd—the unions’ unanimous repudiation of Jair Bolsonaro’s pension reform bill could also be credited for this unusual togetherness among union leaders.
When congressman and trade unionist Paulinho da Força took the microphone talked about watering down the reform, nobody batted an eyelid. What seemed strange, however, was the reason behind his pledge. Instead of saying that left-wing parties should protect their elderly and fight austerity measures that will force people to work for longer—like many of his counterparts did—Paulinho da Força focused on the realpolitik: diluting the pension reform would stop Jair Bolsonaro sailing toward re-election.
While not a widely explored hypothesis, Paulinho da Força’s assertion raised the question about what the true impact of the pension reform on the political game will turn out to be. After all, Mr. Bolsonaro has begun his term as the least popular first-term president. Could a single bill—even one of this magnitude—be enough to earn re-election?