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Conference builds worker solidarity
19 Dec 2005
Trade union 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 Exchange.
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Conference builds worker solidarity
By Special to Workers World
Tijuana, Mexico
Published Dec 18, 2005 7:59 PM

Trade union 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 Exchange.

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.

García 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.

New 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 Bolivarian revolutionaries have won 10 elections in a row, elections certified as legitimate by European Union observers.

Rivero indicated that Venezuelans 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 Venezuelan 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 under NAFTA.

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 unionists.

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 Cuba.

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.

A 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.

The 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.

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