Brazil: “Vote Quimby or You Will Lose Your Job”

Vote Quimby early, vote Quimby often. Vote Quimby or my friend here will burn your house down and sow your fields with salt. Vote Quimby or you will never work in this town again. Vote Quimby.

A legislative probe of the drug traffic pointed to six Espirito Santo state police commanders and 24 policemen as members of organized crime. All of them belonged to the Scuderie Le Cocq [a death squad, outawed in 2004, which also counted judges, politicians and prominent lawyers among its members] … the members of the Scuderie Le Cocq created a campaign financing scheme for mayors, legislators and aldermen. When these candidates took office, the Scuderie would show up to demand a bribe in the form of fraudulent public contracts.

Employees had to wear campaign paraphernalia such as T-shirts, caps and stickers, and display a placard, bearing the ballot code 17 and [the nickname of the candidate, “Little Monkey”] at their homes.The [act of harrassment] consisted in the employer’s attempt to suppress the employee’s right to freely elect his candidate of choice, preventing him from manifesting opinions in favor of the opposing candidate and, most seriously, threatening him with nonrenewal of employment during the next harvest.

Two parties competing in a binary election may purchase votes in a sequential bidding game via up-front binding payments and/or campaign promises (platforms) that are contingent upon the outcome of the election. We analyze the role of the parties’ budget constraints and voter preferences in determining the winner and the payments to voters.we study how vote buying would function in an environment in which it is allowed and free of stigma. –Eddie Dekel, Matthew O. Jackson, Asher Wolinsky, “Vote Buying” (2004)

Âmbito Jurídico notes a recent case in which the Brazilian federal labor relations court upheld damages awarded to a plaintiff for having been forced to vote for a specific candidate as a condition of employment.

That is, “Vote Quimby or you will lose your job.”

Why this interests me, among other reasons:

The term for this here is voto do cabresto, a metaphor implying something “leading the horse by the bridle.” A general equivalent is our notion of “machine politics,” I guess you could say.

Rio de Janeiro’s governor recently claimed to have taken a concrete step against such schemes in his state, by disconnecting the process of awarding police promotions from political sponsorship.

The measure was meant to respond to cases in which such promotions are made conditional on promotion candidates delivering votes for the elected official backing the promotion.

The ballot is ostensibly secret, but jeitinhos are devised to allow outsiders to monitor how a subordinate (formal or informal) voted.

In the recent Costa Rican elections, for example, photographic equipment was banned from the polls, but pollwatchers charged the rule was not enforced. Cellphones with video recording capabilities are reportedly sometimes used to this end.

And the Casas memo, over which the Costa Rican Vice President was forced to resign, suggested a scheme of employee meetings, addressed by members of the government, that raised strong suspicions of such a scheme. Astonishingly, the memo also suggested ways of concealing the illegal nature of such activities from the elections authority.

The Bush State Dept. trumpeted the narrow victory of YES as a victory over democracy over Chavism. A point that may play well to domestic audiences, but tends, I think, to have the opposite effect on a very significant number of the very people whose hearts and minds Karen Hughes-style diplomacy is supposed to be winning over.

That is to say, it tends to lend considerable credence to a polarizing narrative according to which a vote against the Bolivarian tide is a vote for old-school Tammany-style kleptocracy (here in Brazil, Carlismo and other phenomena of the same genus; you might term it, in general, the “restless ghost of Fulgencio Batista” effect. The credibility of this meme is, I think, often vastly underestimated by the Moonie wing of our foreign policy establishment.)

“Vote in a certain way or you will lose your job” advertising was observed in both that referendum and the one in Venezuela.

The Costa Rica case had domestic political repercussions in the U.S., over statements by trade representative Susan Schwab that stated, implied or insinuated that (1) Costa Rica’s favored nation trade status might be withdrawn, and (2) foreign employers might pull out if NO prevailed. See

Those forms of pressure tend to be couched in terms of a macroeconomic and political “fear, uncertainty and doubt” theory, and used to support whisper campaigns.

That being the (relatively) sophisticated and subtle way of getting this done.

In the worst-case scenario, here in Brazil, police engaged in milita activity may engage in “Vote Quimby or my friend here will blow your brains out” electioneering. The case of Nadinho (DEM-PFL) and Inspector Tostes (PMDB) is, according to the charges in the case, an example of this. See

Similar schemes have long been a part of Mexican politics. State- and owner-controlled unions which serve a gatekeeper role for employment make political support for designated candidates and other activities — attendance at mass rallies, for example — a condition of continuing to practice the regulated trade as a member of the pelêgo union, or receiving benefits of membership — such as the Gordillo housing subsidy for (a very limited number of) SNTE members.

I think it is Andres Oppenheimer who recounts a case of this among Mexico City street vendors in his book Bordering on Chaos, on the ascent of Zedillo — the Televisa candidate — and the 1993 peso crisis. Nonattendance at rallies could lead to loss of license to sell popcorn on the Zócalo, for example.

Arguments against enforcing laws against practices of this kind tend to attribute them to a Communist plot to “perpetuate the terrorists in power.”

If voto do cabresto cannot be practiced effectively, that is, the wrong people might be elected. “Simple” persons are incapable of understanding their own political and economic interests, can be swayed by “demagogy,” and need to be guided by their benevolent superiors. See also

At any rate, a concrete case of the application of the legal theory of workplace harrassment (assédio moral) against this sort of thing.

Impor candidato político aos empregados constitui assédio moral. Como conseqüência, o assediado tem direito a receber, do empregador, indenização por dano moral. Assim julgou a Sétima Turma do Tribunal Superior do Trabalho em ação de trabalhador safrista contra a Cooperativa Agropecuária dos Cafeicultores de Porecatu Ltda. – Cofercatu. A decisão do TST manteve o valor da indenização, definido pela Vara do Trabalho de Porecatu, no Paraná, em R$10 mil.

Imposing a political candidate on employers constitutes [harrassment]. As a consequence, the target of this harrassment has the right to receive damages from his or her employer. That was how the Seventh Chamber of the Superior Labor Tribunal (TST) ruled in a suit brought by a seasonal harvest worker against Cofercatu, a coffee-growing cooperative in Porecatu, Paraná. The TST upheld the value of the aware, which had been set by the local Labor Bar in Porecatu at R$10,000.

An exercise in economics and law: driving up the cost per vote of “vote early, vote often, vote Quimby” practices.

Desde março de 1989, todos os anos o trabalhador executava serviços para a Cofercatu, em períodos de safra. Suas funções foram de ajudante geral, trabalhador rural e operador de vácuo, em diversas propriedades da empregadora e de seus cooperados, nos estados do Paraná e São Paulo, em colheita de algodão e indústria. Seu último período contratado foi de maio de 2004 a janeiro de 2005.

The worker has performed seasonal harvest work for Cofercatu since March 1989. He worked as a general helper, rural worker, and vacuum operator on various properties of his employer and its associates in the cooperative in the states of Paraná and São Paulo, in cotton harvesting and post-harvest processing. His last contract was between May 2004 and January 2005.
Debut feature by Sergio Rezende (1986) told the story of a real-life favela-populist politician famous for walking around extravagantly, as they say in Brooklyn and Chicago, strapped. The folkore of gunpoint electioneering in a sort of Brazilian take on Bonnie and Clyde. See also Alagoas: The Ghost of Tenório Cavalcanti?

Foi nessa época que a Cofercatu impôs a seus empregados, dentre eles o autor, que votassem em um candidato específico a prefeito de Florestópolis, no Paraná, filho do diretor da empresa. Os empregados tinham que usar brindes de campanha, como camisetas, bonés e adesivos, e colocar cartaz com o número 17, o “macaquinho”, na própria casa. Não sendo recontratado e com todo o constrangimento sofrido, o trabalhador decidiu ajuizar ação em março de 2005. Pleiteou adicional noturno e horas extras, com reflexos, horas no transporte, pagamento de feriados trabalhados e indenização por danos morais – esta no valor de R$50 mil.

It was during this period that Cofercatu imposed on its employees, including the plaintiff, the condition of voting for a specific candidate for the mayor of Florestópolis, in Paraná — the son of the company’s director. Employees had to wear campaign paraphernalia such as T-shirts, caps and stickers, and display a placard, bearing the ballot code 17 and [the nickname of the candidate, “Little Monkey”] at their homes. Upon not being rehired, and because of the humiliation suffered, the worker decided to sue in March 2005. He asked for back overtime wages, with accumulated interest, payment of transportation time, holiday page and damages in the amount of R$50,000.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: “I will vote for Maluf. I will vote for Maluf.” Angelí is the Folha de S. Paulo’s editorial cartoonist, and inventor of the legendary real-life woman I married, Rê Bordosa.

Ballot code 17 signifies the party presided over by Paulo Salim Maluf. On whom see also:

A Vara do Trabalho de Porecatu condenou a Cofercatu à indenização de R$10 mil por danos morais. A cooperativa vem recorrendo da sentença, alegando que o empregador pode dispensar seus empregados sem que tal ato seja considerado lesivo sob o aspecto moral. Ao analisar o recurso ordinário, o Tribunal Regional do Trabalho da 9ª Região (PR) frisou em sua decisão que a condenação por dano moral decorreu da comprovação do assédio moral sofrido, e não da mera despedida.

The local labor tribunal ordered Cofercatu to pay R$10,000 in damages. The cooperative has appealed the ruling, saying that an employer may dismiss employees without that act being considered abusive of personal rights. Analyzing its appeal, the regional labor tribunal of the 9th Region (Paraná) underscored in its decision that the damages were awarded, not based on the mere fact of dismissal, but on proof of the harrassment suffered.

Para o TRT/PR, a prova oral de testemunhas demonstrou, sem sombra de dúvida, que a empresa impôs a seus empregados, dentre eles o autor, que votassem em um candidato específico, o filho do diretor da empresa. O assédio moral decorre da tentativa da empregadora de suprimir do empregado o direito a escolher seu candidato à eleição, impedir que se manifeste a favor do candidato adversário e, mais grave, ameaçar de não voltar a recontratar o trabalhador na próxima safra.

For the regional tribunal, witness testimony established beyond the shadow of a doubt that the firm forced its employees, including the plaintiff, to vote for a specific candidate, the son of the firm’s director. The [harrassment] resided in the employer’s attempt to suppress the employee’s right to freely elect his candidate of choice, preventing him from manifesting opinions in favor of the opposing candidate and, most seriously, threatening him with nonrenewal of employment during the next harvest.

Segundo constatou o Tribunal Regional, a cooperativa fazia reuniões com os empregados que eram verdadeiros comícios políticos, ocasiões em que era obrigatório o uso do material de campanha do candidato do filho do diretor e, obviamente, proibida a utilização de propaganda referente ao candidato adversário. Eram feitas ameaças de que o não-atendimento das exigências patronais implicaria a não-contratação na safra seguinte.

Accoring to the regional federal court, the cooperative held meetings with employees that were actually campaign rallies, at which times it was obligatory to display campaign materials for the boss’s son and, obviously, materials for the opposing candidate were banned. Threats were made according to which failure to meet these requirements would result in not being hired for the next harvest. 

De fato, eventuais empregados que optaram por apoiar o candidato adversário não foram recontratados. Na campanha eleitoral de 2004, os fiscais da Cofercatu sondavam se o trabalhador-autor estava nos comícios realizados pelo candidato da oposição. Dias após o resultado da eleição, com a perda do candidato “apoiado” pela empresa, os empregados na ativa não conversavam com os demitidos, tudo para não perder o emprego ou a confiança do empregador.

In fact, employees who opted to support the other candidate were not re-hired. During the 2004 campaign, Cofercatu monitored whether the plaintiff attended rallies for the opposing candidate. Days after the results of the election were declared, with the company’s candidate losing, current employees would not speak to those who had been fired, in order to avoid losing their job or their employer’s trust

Na tentativa de alterar a decisão do Regional, a empresa recorreu ao TST. Para o relator do agravo de instrumento, ministro Ives Gandra Martins Filho, o trabalhador passou pelo constrangimento de fazer campanha e votar em candidato político escolhido pela empresa, ato suficiente para caracterizar a violação dos direitos da personalidade constitucionalmente protegidos. Assim, não há decisão a modificar, pois o entendimento adotado pelo TRT, que manteve a sentença na parte em que condenou a Cofercatu ao pagamento de indenização por dano moral, não viola o art. 5º, V e X, da Constituição Federal, mas resulta justamente da sua observância. (AIRR-2.534/2005-562-09-40.6)

In an attempt to overturn the decision by the regional court, the firm appealed to the TST. In the view of the justice assigned the case, Gandra Martins, the worker was subjected to the humiliation of being forced to campaign and vote for a candidate chosen by his employer, which provided sufficient grounds for ruling his constitutional rights had been violated. Thus, the ruling was not modified, becase the TRT found, in maintaining the part of the judgment that ordered Cofercatu to pay damages, does not violate Article 5, V and X, of the federal constitution, but rather constitutes its observance. 


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