Conference builds worker solidarity
Published Dec 18, 2005 7:59 PM
leaders from Cuba and Venezuela, along with unionists, students and activists
from Mexico, the U.S., and several other countries, gathered in Tijuana on Dec.
9, 10 and 11 for a labor conference organized each year by the US/Cuba Labor
Ignacio Meneses of the US/Cuba Labor Exchange chaired the first
plenary session, which heard a presentation by Ermela García Santiago,
director of the National School of Cadre of the CTC/Lázaro Peña.
The CTC is Cuba’s national labor organization.
focused on new government measures and plans to benefit Cuban workers that
emphasize raising the incomes of those who earn the least. Recently, the minimum
wage was increased from 100 pesos to 225 pesos. One and a half million Cuban
workers have benefited from this increase.
New apartments are being built
jointly by the government and the people who will live in them. There is also an
expanded effort to make medical services more convenient by decentralizing
facilities. Electric power sources are also being decentralized.
municipality-based universities are being set up and a “university of the
elderly” has been established. García added that the unions are
playing an active role in all these efforts, and there is a process of continual
evaluation and adjustment.
José Ramón Rivero, director of
the Metalworkers Union of Vene zuela and a member of the Vene zue lan
parliament, spoke about how the U.S. dominated Venezuela economically and
militarily for decades, but today the Bolivarian Revolution has opened a new and
inspiring chapter in the country’s development. He cited attempts of the
imperialist media to portray the government of President Hugo Chávez as a
dictatorship when, in fact, the Boli varian revolutionaries have won 10
elections in a row, elections certified as legitimate by European Union
Rivero indicated that Vene zuelans expect no letup in U.S.
plots against their country, but said that they are prepared for whatever new
aggression the U.S. has in mind.
He also dealt with ongoing efforts to
democratize the Vene zuelan union movement, which has been used in the past by
the right wing against the revolution. Rivero addressed the important role that
youth have played in bringing Chávez to power and predicted they will
continue to be active both in their communities and in the government. The
youngest member of Venezuela’s parliament in history, a 27-year-old, was
just elected there.
The second plenary focused on the trade pact known as
the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA—ALCA in Spanish), which is being
pushed by the U.S. Speakers said that, if implemented, it would bring to the
rest of Latin America the same economic disaster already experienced in Mexico
Leonel González González, direc tor of foreign
relations of Cuba’s CTC, summarized the current debilitated state of the
workers’ movements in the U.S., Europe and Latin America. He said the
overriding goal of a recent labor conference in Havana, attended by
representatives from 72 countries, was the renewal of the class struggle. He
urged participants at the Tijuana conference to get copies of the 28 resolutions
passed at the Havana conference and distribute them widely, especially to trade
Other topics addressed by speakers were the situation of the
Cuban Five—the heroic Cubans now held in U.S. federal prisons for the
“crime” of exposing terrorist plots against their country—and
the escalating efforts by Washington to keep people in the U.S. from visiting
Solidarity statements were offer ed by a number of conference
participants, including a British acti vist, a leader of the Mexican Electrical
Workers Union, a Team ster and several teachers from Los Angeles.
unique, politically powerful and highly moving part of the conference was the
Sunday morning plenary, held at a large hall several blocks from the conference
site. Close to 500 members of the Mexican Ex-Bracero Movement were meeting
there. These former immigrant workers have been engaged in a long battle to
recover the substantial funds deducted from their pay by the Mexican government,
with the help of the Wells Fargo Bank, while they worked in the U.S.
Braceros generously opened their meeting to the Labor Con ference participants
and listened attentively to the presentations. A high point of this plenary was
a presentation on immigrant workers by Ruth Vela of the San Diego International
Action Center and the revolutionary youth group FIST—Fight Imperialism,
Stand Together. The text of her talk is available in Spanish and English.
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