Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Labor Tour from San Diego

The labor union activists from Cuba and Mexico arrived in San Diego on the evening of March 23. The following morning they spoke to a Chicano Studies class at San Diego City College. The students were attentive and a lively discussion followed the presentations. Evidence of the students' enthusiastic support for the goals of the tour and the work of these union leaders were the unsolicited monetary donations that these working-class students offered to the labor delegation. That evening's informal social gathering organized by Unión del Barrio attracted more youth and many Barrio Logan community members.

The next morning the tour members met at the American Friends Service Committee office with Pedro Ríos and Adriana Jasso, leaders of that organization's U.S.-Mexico Border Program, and exchanged information and ideas about the struggles of immigrant workers and other issues. The next stop was the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council office, where the tour delegation met with council head, Lorena Gonzalez. One of the topics discussed with her was the struggle of the Mexican electrical workers. Following a detailed description of the background and current situation by Pipino Cuevas Velásquez, Gonzalez indicated that the San Diego Electrical Workers local had previously passed a resolution supporting the struggle of the Mexican "electricistas." Gilda Chacón Bravo spoke about the role of the World Federation of Trade Unions, the significance of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), and important upcoming international labor meetings in Athens, Greece, and Managua, Nicaragua. She also addressed common misconceptions about conditions in Cuba. Gonzalez expressed an interest in visiting Cuba and acknowledged that unions in the U.S. must reorient with a more struggle-based approach to confront the new and dangerous attacks on unions and the U.S. working class in general.

At the Friday evening public meeting at the World Beat Center in San Diego's Balboa Park, banners announcing "¡La Batalla de los Obreros No Tiene Fronteras! No Borders in the Workers' Struggle!" and "¡Unidos Venceremos!" [United we will win!] greeted attendees. Gloria Verdieu of the San Diego International Action Center called for a minute of silence for Leonard Weinglass, who recently died, in recognition of his long and dedicated career as a people's lawyer. Weinglass was counsel for Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five, and had successfully defended the Five before the U.S Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, a victory that was subsequently overturned by the full bench of the 11th Circuit. Following an introduction by Unión del Barrio leader Benjamín Prado and presentations by Chacón Bravo and Cuevas Velásquez, there was discussion from the floor, including an announcement about the exhibit of paintings and poetry by Cuban Five member Antonio Guerrero scheduled to open soon in San Diego at the Centro Cultural de la Raza, a nearby park building. In addition to Unión del Barrio and the International Action Center, San Diego Friends of Cuba and local jornalero [day laborer] organizers voiced their support for the goals of the tour.