Seven things Cuban workers get that U.S. workers don’t

April 17, 2017 9:28 AM CDT BY MICHELLE KERN

Ernesto Freire Cazañas, head of the International Relations Department of El Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, and a member of the CTC National Council is looking for new opportunities to create ties with labor unions in the U.S.

The CTC is eager to establish fraternal labor relations in the United States. They have had limited opportunities, but Freire Cazañas highlighted the instances to date:  a Cuban trade union delegation travelled to the opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C. in July of 2015; and two thousand union leaders from the US who have journeyed to Cuba for May 1st celebrations and labor education exchanges.  A representative from the CTC would be open to opportunities to visit different U.S. states if permission to travel here on a visa could be obtained.

The CTC is the Cuban equivalent to the AFL-CIO.  The labor federation is 78 years old; its existence pre-dates the Revolution.

Unions in Cuba are organized wall-to-wall within industries:  The Transportation Union, for example, organizes all workers in transit, from airline pilots all the way to pedicab drivers.

The Cuban trade union movement is not affiliated with the Cuban Communist Party—the federation is independent and self-financed.  A trade union member is not required to be a member of the Communist Party.

Prospective union members can organize a union with as few as ten colleagues who also wish to form a union in their workplace.

Affiliation with a trade union is voluntary. Freire Cazañas described a shared experience of trade union organizers all over the world: that there are always a few workers who think that they do not need a union until they really need their union.  Despite this, Cuba enjoys a 98 percent union membership rate.  (The U.S. rate of unionization among all workers is 11.3 percent.)

The 2011 reorganization of the state-run economic sector, as part of the economic revitalization program planned in the Sixth Congress, has produced a new workforce of 500,000 self-employed workers.  These self-employed workers, whether co-op workers, artists, small scale hotel operators, or craft-persons, all have the right to join a trade union.

Private businesses like small hotels and restaurants are also affiliated with the hospitality union.  The unionization rate is not as high in the self-employed sector as it is in the traditional trade unions, but the labor movement is working to raise the rate of organization.

The right to be employed is a hallmark of Cuban worker rights.  Along with this right, workers have a number of rights legally mandated in 2014:

–Right to a written contract

–Social security

–Eight-hour workday

–One day of rest a week

–Seven days of vacation

–One year of paid parental leave, which can be granted to either parent

Grandparents are also now allowed a stipend for childcare if they are caregivers while parents work.  Furthermore, in order to encourage higher birthrates, the tax rate for women has been decreased if they have a child.

Even with what he termed the “genocidal blockade,” from the United States, Freire Cazañas made clear that Cuba’s priority remains human beings.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy locks the door on California Medicare activists

January 30, 2017 12:08 PM CST  BY VERGIL LEWIS

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Nearly 1,000 people from all over the state of California descended on the Bakersfield office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Friday to demand that he drop plans to privatize Medicare and Medicaid and instead “protect, improve, and expand” these programs that are so vital to people in his district and across the country.

The rally, called and organized by the California Alliance of Retired Americans (CARA), the California Labor Federation, and Campaign for a Healthy California, brought in busloads of a very diverse crowd, including unionists, senior activists, and youth of every race and ethnicity in this state.

Congressman McCarthy’s district, a largely agricultural area toward the south end of California’s Central Valley, has the highest percentage – 51 percent – of constituents who rely on Medicare and Medicaid of any Congressional district in the nation, yet McCarthy has long been a proponent of vouchers and other schemes that would increase costs and restrict coverage for these vital programs.

He has a history of refusing to meet with constituents to discuss this issue. In fact, Rob England, director of the Kern/Inyo/Mono Central Labor Council, who emceed the rally, told of repeatedly finding the district office locked and staff members ducking under their desks when he attempted to arrange meetings; despite repeated attempts to set up a meeting with his staff during this event, staff refused and as usual locked the door.

Speakers at the rally included healthcare workers, patients, teachers, and representatives of several unions, including the California Nurses Association, United Domestic Workers, and United Farm Workers. Latinos were especially well represented, including patients and workers from the Clínica Monseñor Oscar Romero.

Several healthcare workers touched on the devastating consequences of lack of access to healthcare before and even in some cases after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Oncologist Paul Song of Campaign for a Healthy California recalled how distressing it is to see patients going bankrupt because of the costs of cancer care or coming in with late-stage cancer because they could not access screening or preventative treatments.

Surgical nurse Sandy Reding of the California Nurses Association reported often seeing patients who require surgery because they had to choose between putting food on the table and paying for medications or seeing a doctor. Editha Adams of United Domestic Workers (UDW), a union representing 98,000 home care workers in the state, noted that 61 percent of home care funding for seniors or others needing it comes from Medicare and Medicaid, so that any move that restricts funding or access to these programs directly threatens their clients who cannot manage without the services they provide.

Speakers repeatedly called for expanding Medicare to cover all Americans and pointed out the importance of fighting to vote out Congresspeople like McCarthy who aim to deny Americans access to healthcare.

They also stressed the importance of building unity on this issue; as UDW president Doug Moore declared, referring to the political situation created by the Trump presidency, “This is not a time to be silent; this is a time to stand up, because standing down is not an option” – an affirmation enthusiastically repeated by the crowd.

Bernice Bernillaas, a retired teacher and a CARA activist, gave the participants “homework”: calling their Congressional Representatives and Senators not just once but repeatedly to voice their support for single-payer Medicare for All health care such as exists in every other developed country.

Since the Congressman had locked his doors, people taped signs to McCarthy’s office windows stating why they loved Medicare and Medicaid; McCarthy, or at least his staff, will have to read them when they take them down.  And then the crowd marched back to the buses, proclaiming, “We’ll be back.”

Via People’s World