Press Advisory: Dictatorship in Cuba celebrates May Day four days late, but Cuban workers have nothing to celebrate. 

Press advisory

For immediate release

Dictatorship in Cuba celebrates May Day four days late, but Cuban workers have nothing to celebrate. 

Labor rights non-existent: No right to strike or collectively bargain in Cuba.

Contact: John Suarez (612)-367-6845/ Janisset Rivero (786) 208-6056

Center for a Free Cuba. Washington, DC, May 5, 2023. The Castro regime finally celebrated May Day on Friday, four days late, but Cuban workers have nothing to celebrate. There are no legal independent unions in Cuba, and workers do not have the right to strike or collectively bargain.

The pretext for not having the May Day Parade in the Plaza of the Revolution, is blamed on fuel shortages, but the reality is more likely that officials would be unable to fill the Plaza due to general discontent in the Cuban populace, or have their pro-regime event turn into a massive anti-government protest.

On May Day the Center for a Free Cuba sent a “Petition for the restoration of labor rights in Cuba” to international labor organizations asking them to ask the Cuban government to restore labor rights in Cuba, and today made it available for signature on Change.org.

“Cubans have a right to their rights, and that includes labor rights,” said John Suarez, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, who added, “the right to organize independent labor unions, collectively bargain, and strike existed in Cuba prior to the Castro dictatorship, and must be restored.”

Below is the text of the petition. Iván Hernández Carrillo, General Secretary of the Independent Labor Association of Cuba ( Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba) has signed the petition. Full list of signatures available upon request.

Whereas, Labor rights flourished during the Cuban Republic (1902 – 1952).

Between 1902 and 1952 labor unions made great strides for worker’s rights in Cuba, especially after the ousting of President Gerardo Machado in 1933.  

Ramon Grau San Martin’s provisional government marked a before and after in Cuban history. Between October and December of 1933, it issued a first package of popular and nationalist measures that strengthened labor rights in Cuba.

  1. Created the Ministry of Labor, since there was no body specifically in charge of labor matters.

  2. Established employer liability for accidents; he suspended the evictions of tenants and canceled 50% of the taxes and contributions not paid in due time.

  3. Established the eight-hour work day and the right to unionize. He promulgated the Labor Nationalization Law that established the obligation that 50% of the workers and employees had to be native Cubans.

Labor legislation passed in 1938 guaranteed Cuban workers’ additional rights: 

  1.  A minimum wage; 

  2. Pensions that assumed a constitutional character;

  3. Creation of the Central of Workers of Cuba Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC in Spanish) 

Cuba’s 1940 Constitution further enshrined workers’ rights into law with 26 articles which included:

A maximum work day of no more than 8 hours and a maximum working week of 44 hours equivalent to 48 in wages (Article 66); The right to paid vacation of one month for each 11 months of work in each calendar year (Article 67); The right of unionization (Article 69); The right to strike (Article 71); The system of collective labor contracts (Article 72); a non-discriminatory practice in the distribution of opportunities to work ( Article 74).

Strong trade unions and labor legislation in the Cuban Republic were a factor in rising living standards, and improved healthcare outcomes.

Professor James W. McGuire and Laura B. Frankel in their paper published in the Latin American Research Review, “Mortality Decline in Cuba, 1900-1959: Patterns, Comparisons, and Causes” found that “Cuba’s progress relative to other Latin American countries at reducing infant mortality was even greater from 1900 to 1960 than from 1960 to 1995. During the earlier period, Cuba led all Latin American countries for which data are available at raising life expectancy and reducing infant mortality. From 1960 to 1995, by contrast, it came in fourth and fifth respectively.” 

Whereas the Communist Revolution in Cuba in 1959 led to the end of Cuba’s independent labor movement.

On January 22, 1959 the CTC was replaced by the CTC-Revolucionaria. In the X Congress, held in November 1959, the Secretary General, David Salvador Manso,”said that the workers had not gone to the event to raise economic demands but to support the revolution.” And in the XI Congress, November 1961, the delegates renounced almost all the achievements of the labor movement, including  “the nine days of leave for sickness, the supplementary Christmas bonus, the weekly shift of 44 x 48 hours, the right to strike and an increase of 9.09%, among many others. Workers were required to do “voluntary work” that was actually mandatory.

The 2019 Cuban Constitution (current) does not recognize a right to strike or a right to collective bargaining. 

Therefore we ask you as part of the international labor movement to petition the Cuban government to:

  1. Recognize the right for Cubans to unionize, and form independent labor unions.

  2. Recognize the right of Cubans to strike

  3. Recognize the rights of Cubans to collective bargaining

  4. Establish forty hour week with salary for forty four

  5. Establish two weeks vacation

  6. Restore Christmas bonus

  7. Restore adequate funding and maintenance to the Hospital Maternidad Obrera

  8. End forced labor which is called “voluntary work” [ trabajo voluntario].

  9. Return Hotel Habana libre to the  Sindicato Cubano de Trabajadores de la Gastronomía retirement fund

  10. End discriminatory hiring practices based on race, religion, and political beliefs.

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