Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2017

Abstract

Over the last decades, the Brazilian state has engaged in concerted legal efforts to identify and prosecute cases of what officials refer to as “slave labor” (trabalho escravo). At a conceptual level, the campaign has paired the constitutional protection of human dignity and the “social value of labor” with an expansive interpretation of the offense described in Article 149 of the Criminal Code as “the reduction of a person to a condition analogous to that of a slave.” At the operational level, mobile teams of inspectors and prosecutors have intervened in thousands of work sites, and labor prosecutors have obtained hundreds of consent agreements and convictions in the labor courts, a civil branch of the judiciary. Between the mid-1990s and the end of 2016, some 51,000 workers were administratively resgatados (“rescued”) from rural and urban workplaces in which inspectors determined that they had been reduced to a condition analogous to slavery. Under the supervision of the inspectors, labor contracts have been administratively cancelled, back pay has been (when possible) extracted from the employer, and unemployment insurance payments have been provided to the rescued workers.


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