Law and justice are studied in this book from the perspective of social and
global history. The main focus of Workers Before the Tribunal is to
overcome traditional binary oppositions between corporativist and
contratualist models of labor relations, the former representing a view in
which the working class would have more autonomy in struggling for better
labor conditions, the latter meaning the protagonism of the State in
promoting labor rights.
Teixeira da Silva presents three main arguments.
First, he shows that the Brazilian labor justice system created during the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship (1930-1945), although inspired by Mussolini's legal
order in Italy, is very different from the Fascist Magistratura del Lavoro.
Second, in his comparative analysis with other national cases, such as the
United States, France, Germany and Australia, the author argues that there
was a large circulation of ideas and practices, resulting in a more complex
dynamic of appropriation of international ideas on labor rights and
institutions in Brazil.
Third, Teixeira da Silva demonstrates that litigation in labor courts was one strategy of the working-class movement in Brazil, together with strikes and other means of confrontation. Therefore, he questions historiographical and political
approaches that see labor justice as a weak substitute for class
action. The "jurisdictionalization" of labor relations became a
constitutive element in the making of the Brazilian working class.
The book is anchored in the research of hundreds of labor litigation cases during the dramatic months preceding the 1964 civil-military coup d’état that inaugurated a quarter century of dictatorial rule in Brazil.