Jimmy Roque Martinez
HAVANA TIMES – Two weeks before May 1st, one could already see people working in the vicinity of Havana’s Revolution Square as part of the preparations for International Workers’ Day. The orchestra was rehearsing, the audio system was being checked, banners were being painted and signs were being posted.
Large numbers of people gather daily at the National Theater located in front of the Square to organize the May Day rally. They are all military. I also see many Ministry of the Interior (MININT) officials and many young men in civilian clothing working under them.
The island’s repressive apparatus is tasked with “guiding and offering support” to the obedient and servile Cuban Workers Union (CTC). The presence of MININT officials, working in total harmony with the workers’ union, attests to the age-old, farcical nature of the rally.
In view of this, this May 1st, my demands as a worker will be:
- To dissolve the current Cuban Workers Union. We must decentralize and create real trade unions that members can join of their own free will, without any kind of pressure to join these associations. Currently, membership is only nominally voluntary, but not joining the union has costs that I’ve personally had to pay.
- Full freedom of thought and expression for workers.
- The real right to obtain and remain at a job, regardless of one’s political stance (a right that was stricken from the current legislation).
- Employers and employees cannot belong to the same union – this is an entirely absurd situation found in Cuba today.
- Workers must have decision-making prerogatives at their companies and total access to their accounts.
- Authorize the creation of real and autonomous cooperatives.
- The financial benefits secured through ones work must be enough to afford workers a decorous life, for themselves and their families. We cannot allow the State to continue stealing from worker salaries, as is the case in the Mariel Special Development Zone.
- Wage labor – which offers the immense majority of workers measly salaries anyways, while certain elites continue to enjoy privileges – must disappear. Privileges for the military, leaders and government officials must disappear.
- The right to strike must be legalized.
- Employment ought to be a right – this was eliminated from the current Labor Code.
- We cannot allow a non-State worker to be granted a mere 7 days of vacation every year. Official forms of socialist work exploitation should not be given additional legal support.
- Contract work abroad should not continue to be used as a reward to pressure workers into certain commitments.
- Pensions should be enough for retired workers to live on. We must not continue to see elderly people living in extreme poverty or rummaging through garbage bins in search of cans they can re-sell and buy food with.
- The retirement age should be lowered and the work day reduced. We cannot allow them to demand that we produce more in order to improve the country’s economy. We have already produced and put up with enough.
- We must not allow administrative and trade union leaders to continue to blame the working class for the country’s failures and disasters. The disaster stems chiefly from the State’s inefficient administration. What’s more, the State should not exist, not in Cuba or anywhere else in the world, for it has always been and will always be the people’s main enemy.
When we make all of this a reality, some may have cause for celebration. Not all, as there will always remain work to be done. Freedom will always seem too restrictive to us.