Press Release: Petition to international labor leaders to appeal to the Cuban government to restore labor rights in Cuba.

Press advisory

For immediate release

Petition to international labor leaders to appeal to the Cuban government to restore labor rights in Cuba.

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

Center for a Free Cuba. Washington, DC, May 8, 2023. Forty human rights advocates, religious leaders, writers, artists, intellectuals, journalists, businessmen, former diplomats and academicians petitioned international labor leaders to appeal to the Cuban government to restore labor rights in Cuba.

The Castro regime celebrated May Day on May 5th, four days late, but Cuban workers had nothing to celebrate. There are no legal independent unions in Cuba, and workers do not have the right to strike or collectively bargain. 72% of Cubans live in poverty, defined by the World Bank as a daily income of less than $1.90. 

The excuse for not holding the May Day Parade in the Plaza of the Revolution was blamed on fuel shortages, but the reality was that officials would be unable to fill the Plaza due to general discontent among the Cuban people, or their pro-regime event could turn into a massive anti-government demonstration. The nonviolent protest in Caimanera, Guantánamo, on May 6th, and the regime’s response: internet shutdown across the island, violent suppression of the demonstration, and at least five demonstrators badly beaten and arbitrarily detained, illustrate Havana’s fear of widespread popular dissent.

This petition for the restoration of labor rights in Cuba is directed to international labor leaders asking them to request the Cuban government restore the following labor rights and privileges in Cuba that existed prior to the founding of the communist regime.

  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.

Among the signatories are Iván Hernández Carrillo, General Secretary of the Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba; Paquito D’Rivera, composer and Grammy Award winner; Jorge Olivera, journalist, poet, and dissident; Carlos Eire, author, and professor at Yale University; Ileana Fuentes, author, translator, feminist, human rights and democracy advocate; Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez, former political prisoner (served 22 years) and poet; and Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, presbyter, founder and coordinator, Patmos Institute.

Also, among those signing, are: Ambassador Everett Briggs, former U.S. ambassador to Portugal and Panama; Sirley Avila Leon, human rights activist and victim of regime orchestrated machete attack in 2015; Yoe Suarez, independent journalist; Sebastian Arcos, human rights activist, assistant director, Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute; Janisset Rivero, writer and human rights activist, and Ambassador Armando Valladares and Mrs. Martha Valladares.

This appeal was sent to the presidents of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Labor Organization, the AFL-CIO, and the UAW, among others.

“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.”

BACKGROUND INFORMATION – FULL STATEMENT AND SIGNERS

Petition for the restoration of labor rights in Cuba

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.

Signatories:

Iván Hernández Carrillo, General Secretary of the Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba

Paquito D’Rivera, Grammy-winning musician and composer

Dr Modesto Maidique, former President, Florida International University

Ambassador Armando Valladares and Mrs. Martha Valladares

Sergio Díaz Briquets, PHD., international consultant and author

Reverend Mario Felix Leonart Barroso, presbyter, founder and coordinator, Patmos Institute

Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez, former political prisoner (served 22 years) and poet

Paul Echániz, engineer and businessman, retired

Vicente Morin Aguado, journalist

Pablo Alfonso, writer, journalist.

Omar  Vento, MD, medical doctor.

Josefina Vento, DDS, dentist .

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, author, PHD

Ileana Fuentes, author, translator, feminist, human rights and democracy advocate

Frank Calzón, political scientist, human rights advocate, and author

Janisset Rivero, writer and human rights activist

Ambassador Everett Ellis Briggs, Cuba-born, member of the U.S. Foreign Service, retired

Yoe Suarez, independent journalist

Carlos Eire, Professor of History and Religious Studies, Yale University

Sebastian Arcos, human rights activist, assistant director, Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute

Sirley Avila Leon, human rights activist and victim of regime orchestrated machete attack in 2015.

Jorge Olivera, journalist, poet, and dissident.

John Suarez, Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba

Oswaldo José Paya Acevedo

Carolina Lopez

Miguel Lopez

Ziva Sahl

Koren Jackson

Cierra Cornelius

Adam Kaluba

Logan Williams

Michael Lima Cuadra

Rolando Remedios

Sandra Bajana

Joe Lima

Ricardo Bonau

Ricardo González Falcón

Nelson Martínez Legon

Ian Martinez

Marcie Leist

Eliseo Pérez

Humberto Enrique Sánchez

Yeleny Domínguez,

Miriam Vázquez

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