Cuban Trade Union Conference

Jonupstny at Jonupstny at
Mon Jun 3 19:54:41 MDT 1996

/* Written  7:37 PM  May  9, 1996 by plink in */
/* ---------- "960520-Cuba to host international m" ---------- */
Title: 960520-55--Unionists Call For International Conference In Cuba
>from the Militant, vol.60/no.20                           May 20, 1996

   HAVANA - More than 300 unionists from 42 countries met at the
city's main convention center here May 2. They approved a proposal
by Pedro Ross Leal, general secretary of the Central Organization
of Cuban Workers (CTC), to hold an international conference of
trade unionists in Havana in the summer of 1997 to discuss
coordinating labor efforts in the worldwide struggle against
unemployment, cuts in social programs, and other effects of the
capitalist economic crisis. The event will also discuss broadening
working-class opposition to the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba.
   "Every day workers are losing jobs. Every day, nations are
losing their sovereignty," Ross told the unionists attending the
one-day solidarity meeting. Most of the participants had taken part
in the CTC's 17th Congress, which concluded two days earlier.
   "In the face of growing attacks on the rights and living
standards of working people, the union movement cannot remain
dispersed," Ross said. "We are especially worried about the hard
reality confronting those who live in third world countries," where
the economic crisis has been devastating.
   The Cuban trade union leader noted that in capitalist
countries around the world, including in imperialist countries like
the United States, wages are frozen or declining, unemployment is
rising, and social services are being slashed.
   Cuba has also faced a deep economic crisis, Ross said. "But
even with the tightening of the U.S. blockade, not one hospital has
been closed and not one teacher has lost his or her job."
   Ross explained that this is due to the advances made by the
Cuban revolution. "Before 1959, we were virtually a colony," he
said. "The United States dictated to us our national policies."
   As a result, "we had an infant mortality rate of 100 per 1,000
live births. Tens of thousands of workers were jobless." This
situation was reversed, he said, with the victory of the

   Fight against U.S. embargo
   Ross called the new U.S. legislation escalating Washington's
economic war on the Cuban people a "slavery law." The measure is
officially titled the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.
   "Ironically they named this Helms-Burton bill a law for
democracy and solidarity with Cuba. But even with 100 laws they
will not succeed in bringing Cubans to their knees," the CTC leader
   To face both the attacks on the rights and standard of living
of working people around the world, and the attempts by the U.S.
government to tighten the embargo, Ross said, "we need the
solidarity and alliance of our class brothers."
   "We are one single working class and we have common
interests," Ross said. "The Cuban union movement is loyal to its
internationalist tradition and will always be on the side of those
who struggle for their legitimate interests."
   The CTC proposal for the international conference was well-
received by delegates at the meeting. Those present came mostly
>from the Americas and Europe. They included representatives of
several major union federations as well as officials of local
unions and some rank-and-file workers. There were also delegates
>from union federations in China, Laos, Russia, South Africa,
Uganda, and Vietnam.
   Sara Shartel, a member of the United Food and Commercial
Workers and a leader of Worker to Worker in Canada, a group that
organizes unionists in that country to visit Cuba, noted the
resistance to deep layoffs and cutbacks in social services taking
place in Canada today, including several demonstrations of tens of
   "There are 30,000 homeless including 15,000 children in Canada
today," Shartel stated. "Then we look at Cuba. No child is without
a school or homeless."
   Oliva Bouchard, president of the National Federation of
Teachers of Quebec, spoke next. Her delegation came to see the
revolution firsthand, Bouchard said. "In Quebec we are fighting for
our independence and sovereignty. We like the values we have seen
in Cuba."
   Brian Taylor, a member of the International Association of
Machinists, and Gloria La Riva, a member of the Communication
Workers of America, also spoke. They were part of a delegation of
53 trade unionists who came to the CTC congress with the U.S.-Cuba
Labor Exchange.
   Taylor stated that young people and workers who are involved in
struggles in the United States, such as the fight to defend
abortion rights, the movement against anti-immigrant attacks, and
strike battles, are open to learning the truth about the Cuban
revolution. "These fighters see how the big-business media
misrepresents, perverts, and lies about their struggles," Taylor
said, "and begin to wonder if the media has done the same to the
fighting people of Cuba."
   Luis Matos from Local 1199 of the hospital workers union in
New York also attended the CTC meeting along with a six-person
delegation. "It's been extremely important for us to participate in
the 17th Congress of Cuban workers," Matos said. "We could see how
Cuban workers and the government sit down together to seek
solutions to their problems. I haven't seen this in any part of the
world except in Cuba."
   Bernardo Rojas, from the United Workers Federation in
Paraguay, noted that resistance to austerity programs there has
been growing. "A 48-hour general strike will take place this week,"
he reported, "to protest the neoliberal policies of the
government." Several union leaders and activists have been arrested
by the government in an attempt to head off the strike. "That's why
we need more Cubas in Latin America," Rojas concluded.
   A participant from Lebanon condemned the latest Israeli
attacks there. "You are all aware of the situation in my country,"
he said. "Throughout April we faced the savage Israeli aggression.
We are asking for solidarity in the face of all the attacks." He
thanked the CTC and the Communist Party of Cuba for their support
in the struggle against the onslaught by Tel Aviv.
   "Cuba is a beacon of conscience and dignity for the world,"
Ross stated at the end of the day. "This world meeting against
neoliberalism will also be a meeting against the economic and
financial blockade against Cuba and against the Helms-Burton law.
It will be an expression of solidarity with the Cuban people and
the Cuban revolution."
   On May 3, two dozen people met at the CTC offices in Havana to
begin concretizing plans for the 1997 conference. The event has
been tentatively named the International Conference of Workers for
Unity in Action against Neoliberalism. Along with the CTC, the
General Confederation of Workers (CGT) of France and other union
federations around the world will be co-sponsoring the gathering.
   It will take place concurrently with the World Festival of
Students and Youth, which is hosted by the Union of Young
Communists (UJC), Federation of University Students, and other
youth organizations in Cuba. The UJC issued the call for the youth
festival during the massive May Day mobilization in Havana.
   The next planning meeting for the 1997 international trade
union gathering will be held here in November.

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