Reply to: Re: Mexico City May Day 1997

Jon Flanders 72763.2240 at
Mon Jun 24 21:27:04 MDT 1996


  We have an active UE around here. They organized a tour of FAT reps last
year. The Teamsters and the CWA were both represented on the panel at the
Albany meeting.

  Our local Solidarity Committee I am sure would be receptive to the idea. If
there is any interest at all, we could approach the AFL-CIO central labor
councils, but I think the fact that it is May Day would be a problem for them.
Probably we are talking hundreds not thousands right now. It certainly would
be a challenge(non-electoral!) for the new Labor Party wouldn't it?

 I don't know of any organized representation of US labor at previous Mexican
marches, but I am sure a few people have been there.

 The Cuba conference is described below. In this case I would like to see a
delegation from around here attend it. Of course, this would not have as broad
an appeal as Mexico, but I think it is extremely important just the same.

 >> /* 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. <<

  E-mail from: Jonathan E. Flanders, 24-Jun-1996

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