Cuban representative of the World Federation of Trade Unions, Gilda Chacon Bravo, with Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire. The Cuban representative spoke at UAW Local 600 on March 20, 2011. (Photo: Cheryl LaBash) a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Labor Tour Features Trade Unionists From Cuba and Mexico
The struggle against neo-liberalism spans the world
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
DETROIT--A national tour of two trade union leaders from Cuba and Mexico is underway now in the United States. Gilda Chacon Bravo of the Federacion Sindical Mundial (SME), The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) region of the Americas from Cuba and Pipino Cuevas Velazques of the Sindicato Mexicano De Electrucistas, The Mexican Electrical Workers Union, spoke at the largest United Auto Workers (UAW) local in the United States, Local 600, on March 20 in Dearborn, right outside Detroit.
The event was sponsored by the U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange which promotes travel, education and activism that fosters peace and friendship between the peoples of the United States and Cuba. The presence of Gilda Chacon Bravo represented the first time that a trade union leader from Cuba had been granted a visa to enter the U.S. since 2000.
Pipino Cuevas Velazques of the SME talked about the struggle of workers in Mexico within the context of the broader challenges of neo-liberalism. Cuevas said that 40,000 electrical workers have lost their jobs in the recent period as a result of the world economic crisis.
The SME leader said that the government failed to support the workers claiming that they were lazy and unproductive. There are only 16,000 electrical workers left that are represented by the union and they are continuing to resist pay and benefit cuts.
Chacon from Cuba, who is here representing the WFTU, discussed the history of the organization that was formed in the aftermath of World War II in 1945 when there was the emergence of several new socialist states in Europe and Asia. Even after the collapse of the Eastern European socialist countries and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the late 1980s through 1991, the WFTU would continue to function at a reduced level.
Nonetheless in 2005 a meeting was held in Cuba aimed at reviving the labor organization. There have been several conferences since then and one is scheduled to take place this year in Greece.
According to Chacon, the WFTU supports ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America, that is seeking to foster economic and political cooperation among South American, Central American and Caribbean nations that is independent of the dominant influence of the United States. It was this group of nations that drafted a peace proposal to end the civil war in Libya but was dismissed by the U.S., France and the rebels fighting the Gaddafi government with the assistance of numerous imperialist states.
Chacon pointed out several advancements made in the region over the last few years. She highlighted the national literacy project in Bolivia that abolished illiteracy inside this South American state within a relatively short period of time.
In addition, Chacon noted that the Latin American School of Medicine (LASM) has made a tremendous contribution to the educational and health needs of countries throughout the southern region as well as the United States. “Already 150 students from the U.S. have graduated from the LASM,” the WFTU official said.
Also the Cuban trade unionist told the audience that the WFTU had helped launch an international labor forum for the Americas where unionists could gather and discuss pertinent issues irrespective of their political orientation. These encounters involved trade unionists from the Caribbean, Central and South America.
The WFTU and International Affairs
The WFTU is not only a trade union organization but also speaks out against the burning political issues involving conditions throughout the international community. The organization has issued statements opposing U.S. and European intervention in the North African state of Libya.
In response to the bombing of Libya carried out by several imperialist countries including the U.S., beginning on March 19, 2011, the labor organization said that “THE WFTU condemns the military aggression of the imperialists against Libya and that The World Federation of Trade Unions condemns the military aggression of the imperialists against Libya.”
The statement continued noting that “In the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and North Africa these dangerous developments, the conflicts and the competition between the various imperialist compounds, are targeting the petroleum of Libya, the natural gas of the countries in North Africa and the control of strategic points rich in raw materials. This competition leads to economic and spy wars or in warfare like nowadays in Libya.”
This same statement stresses that “The European Union, the USA, France, England and their allies argue that they are attacking Libya to implement the decisions of the UN. They are hypocrites and liars!”
The WFTU asks several questions in regard to the current round of imperialist aggression: “Why are they not doing the same for the resolution about the Cyprus issue? Why are they not doing the same to implement dozens of the UN resolutions for Palestine? Why are they not doing the same to implement the resolutions of the UN to stop the embargo against Cuba?”
In the concluding paragraph, the WFTU says that “We demand the immediate ceasing of the military aggression against Libya. We express our internationalist solidarity to the people of Libya.”
In addition to the trade unionists from Cuba and Mexico, a representative of the striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians attended the event at Local 600. Susan Barna Ayoub, the secretary-treasurer of the union representing the striking DSO musicians expressed solidarity with the workers in Latin America and gave some background information on the musician’s strike that has lasted for nearly six months.
While in Detroit, Chacon and Cuevas attended other events that included a social gathering held on March 19 at the home of members of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice on the eastside of the city. On March 20, after the speaking engagement at Local 600, the trade unionists meet with U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. of Detroit who welcomed the visitors to the city.
The city of Detroit has been a center of solidarity activities with Cuba and the people of Mexico. Every year trade unionists and community activists participate in delegations to Cuba as well as Mexico. The Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan always stops in Detroit every summer and there are trade unionists who attend the International labor conference that is held in Tijuana, Mexico every December.
Both trade union officials also spoke in Cleveland and Chicago and were scheduled to travel to New York and California for additional meetings with labor leaders and community people.