On July 5, San Diego welcomed the historic visit of Victor Manuel Lemagne Sánchez, a representative of the Cuban Workers Central Union (La Central de Trabajadores de Cuba). A reception and discussion were hosted by UNITE HERE at the Local 30 headquarters, and sponsored by Unión Del Barrio and Workers World Party. Opening remarks were made by a representative from UNITE HERE, and the meeting was chaired by Benjamin Prado of Unión del Barrio.
Lemagne Sánchez, who is the secretary-general of the International Union of Hotels and Tourism for the Americas and the Caribbean, began his presentation by pointing out that this is the first time since 2000 that a representative of the Federation of Cuban Workers has been granted a visa to meet with the U.S. labor movement. Many times in his presentation he spoke of conversations during his U.S. tour with workers who were not getting the basic benefits that are guaranteed in Cuba. These include education, health care, vacation time, child care and paid time off.
One example he used was the amount of rooms cleaned per worker per day in hotels, and the attention paid to the chemicals used cleaning the rooms. All of this is evaluated scientifically in Cuba because the workers are first priority. The workers are in control, which is why they take pride in their work. It is important and encouraged that workers actively participate in all the decisions that are made concerning the work and the workplace.
Lemagne Sánchez emphasized that 95 percent of Cuban workers belong to a union and that belonging to a union in Cuba is a conscious, voluntary decision that is made by every worker. This is the result of educating the workers, which is done by the union organizers door-to-door.
Prior to discussion,Lemagne Sánchez handed out a tourism brochure to everyone, along with a sticker referencing Auténtica Cuba, a website guide to Cuban tourism in English. (tinyurl.com/y77anvzv)
The meeting and presentation were in Spanish and there were transceivers available for translation. After the presentation, Prado opened the floor to discussion and emphasized that this was the most important part of this reception: the exchange of ideas. Some of the local community organizations present included the Association of Raza Educators, All of Us or None, the Chicano Prison Project, the Free Mumia and the Free Leonard Peltier coalitions and individuals from Friends of the Malcolm X Library.
Prado ended the discussion by asking that all organizations write a letter or sign on to a statement supporting the movement to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba.