A Cuban’s May Day Demands

Jimmy Roque Martinez

May Day in Cuba in 2014.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Full freedom of thought and expression for workers.
  3. 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).
  4. Employers and employees cannot belong to the same union – this is an entirely absurd situation found in Cuba today.
  5. Workers must have decision-making prerogatives at their companies and total access to their accounts.
  6. Authorize the creation of real and autonomous cooperatives.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. The right to strike must be legalized.
  10. Employment ought to be a right – this was eliminated from the current Labor Code.
  11. 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.
  12. Contract work abroad should not continue to be used as a reward to pressure workers into certain commitments.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.

Jimmy Roque Martinez

Jimmy Roque Martinez: I was born in Havana in 1979, and it seems that work has been my sign. Custodian, fish farmer, lens carver, welder, glass maker, optometrist, have been some of my trades. But none consumes as much of my time as caring for my family. For many years I’ve faced the least pretty face of this society, and I try to be happy while I transform it. I am too shy. I like silence, sleep, theater and movies. I hate injustice and arrogance, and I can hardly contain my anger when it happens in front of me.


36 thoughts on “A Cuban’s May Day Demands

  • June 7, 2015 at 7:59 am
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    rodrigvm;

    I’m not so sure there’s a difference between the terms “stupid” and “socialist”…. as your posts supportive of the current Cuban regime would seem to more than indicate.

    BTW, you’ve been “pushed to the wall” as a union member, have ya’? [smile…yeah, right!]. Sorry, Sport, but just because you’re a loser and can’t make your way on your own in this world does NOT mean that you’re being “pushed to the wall”. Instead, it indicates that you just collapsed against it…and it, along with other, more contributory, elements of society are what’s supporting you.

    On the other, maybe you’re right. After all, there are just MULTITUDES of U.S. citizens anxious to renounce their citizenship and move to that workers paradise of Cuba, aren’t there? [grin!]

    Finally, in terms of the “embargo”, tell the Castro brothers to return all the American property they confiscated, and THEN talk to this country about ending it. Until then, me thinks thieves ought to be dealt with in terms of what they are; i.e. – “thieves”.

  • May 9, 2015 at 10:21 am
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    Proselytizing? Since when is expressing an opinion a crime?

  • May 9, 2015 at 10:20 am
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    I would not mind if he at least was a smart troll, that would be intriguing…

  • May 9, 2015 at 8:01 am
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    Elizabeth;

    Yeah, and they all do those things out of the3 goodness of their heart, don’t they? [smile]

    That’s the difference between people like me and people like you, “Elizabeth”. Those like me PROVIDE employment and the means for people to EARN a living…while people like you stand on the sidelines making “gimme, gimme” demands of others while expecting them to PROVIDE you with an UNEARNED living.

    Now, if your idea of “growing up” is waxing into a parasite on society (a path you appear to have taken), with your only contribution being making “guesses”, then you’re right; I haven’t “grown up”. That said, if being “grown up” means becoming yet another piece of deadwood like you and your kind, then thank goodness there are those of us in the world who have NOT “grown up”.

  • May 8, 2015 at 5:45 pm
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    Elizabeth;

    What a cohesive argument! You’re a real credit to those who share your views, aren’t ya’? (well, if not a “credit”, at least “representative”)

    Say it loud and say it “proud”, Elizabeth….”gimme, gimme, gimme”!

    That’s the way it goes, isn’t it? [smile]

  • May 8, 2015 at 5:42 pm
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    rodrigvm;

    “Econ 101”? What’s that? Some class taught by an instructor provided by an entity like “The Economic Policy Institute”,,,with “studies” provided by same? [smile]

    Sorry, guy…but I base my views on actual observation….NOT on what some young snot-nosed graduate student with little-or-no experience tries to feed me in a beginning “Econ 101” course. Nor am I inclined to accept as gospel claims made by economic theorists who haven’t a fraction of the actual economic experience as I.

    As for “inequality”…I suggest you take a look at the recent riots in Baltimore, and the people complaining there about “inequality”. Yeah, the first thing one might notice is the color of their skin….but THAT’S not the reason they’re unequal. Those who are constantly blaming and/or depending on others to make them “equal” are always going to be UN-equal…as they well should be.

    As for unions, it occurs to me that they’re a primary – perhaps THE primary! – basis for “inequality”. Look at their membership figures down through the years. Over the last 40 years or so, the most observable characteristic of union membership has been THE LIKELIHOOD OF LOSING ONE’S JOB! Face it, guy; chasing literally MILLIONS of jobs from our shore by virtue of demanding UNcompetitivess is what leads to “inequality”; i.e. – if you’re not UP for being “equal” (i.e.- you refuse to work efficiently and cost-effectively) then natural market forces are going to force you in an “unequal” position. At some point in time, the “gimme, gimme” demands of people like you show their true worth….and it’s a little late to bemoan that fact now.

    Those that are competitive in U.S. society today are doing quite well. Those who have forged a history of being NON-competitive and NON cost-effective (read “gimme, gimme” artists, the largest portion of which are union/welfare supporters) are NOT doing so well.

    Go figure! [smile]

  • May 8, 2015 at 1:39 pm
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    I wonder how many people take care of you? Try counting, starting with the people who pick your food, deliver it to your local grocery store, iron your shirts, clean your house, clean your office, answer your telephone, diagnose your health problems, set up your internet connection … I guess you haven’t grown up yet, have you.

  • May 8, 2015 at 12:20 pm
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    One word: Baltimore

  • May 8, 2015 at 12:18 pm
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    Sounds like your the one who refuses to grow up.

  • May 8, 2015 at 12:16 pm
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    True, dictatorships and oligarchies generally don’t improve. I don’t consider Cuba a dictatorship. The reason why the US is such a cruel place to live is because we are living in an oligarchy.

  • May 8, 2015 at 12:11 pm
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    Everyone knew I was an anarchist because of my actions. Some actually said, “you’re an anarchist,” or “a communist,” or “a socialist,” or “an artist,” and they lived in acceptance of it. Those who were ignorant of ideologies would just say, “don’t leave … we’ll miss you.” I left a lot of jobs. And those who were psychopaths were very afraid of me. One psychopath actually set me up so I would be fired after I had already given my resignation LOL.

  • May 8, 2015 at 12:05 pm
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    I was born in 1962 to a civil rights activist and so have always clearly seen the injustice in the US. Pay no attention to Griffin. He’s a troll.

  • May 8, 2015 at 12:02 pm
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    you have to dream first in order to create the reality

  • May 6, 2015 at 8:06 am
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    I said some of them were socialist, not stupid like right ignorant climate change denial right wingers.
    So now you are going to blame the revolution for an unexpected storm? If the US would let countries sell constrction materials cheaper (embargo increases transportation costs) some of the old homes could be repaired. By the way they have done an incredible job in Old Havana. Without gentrification. Do you know that when Hurricane Hugo hit hundred died in Hurricane Hugo caused 34 fatalities (most by electrocution or drowning) in the Caribbean and 27 in South Carolina, left nearly 100,000 homeless, and resulted in $10 billion (1989 USD) in damage. The Center for International Policy,
    a research and advocacy group based in Washington, says a person is 15
    times as likely to be killed by a hurricane in the United States as in
    Cuba. Americans visit Cuba to learn about their preparedness system. Great to mobilize millions of people for May Day and against a storm…or an attack by Gusanos.

  • May 5, 2015 at 12:02 pm
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    You must have a a Hooverite as a HS teacher, taft Hartley Law limited the rights of workers (compared to the Wagner Act before) and you did not say anything about “Right to Work Laws” whcih have led to the demise of public sector unions, the US is a plutocracy not a democracy…..BTW I did not see unhealthy poeple in Cuba, I see then in LA, Baltimore, Alabama, have you been to a holler in the Applachias? I have!

  • May 5, 2015 at 11:59 am
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    You must have been taking a siesta in Econ 101, the studies are there that one of the main reasons a middle class was developed as because of high paying working class jobs like in auto assemblies…obviously the fact that US was dominant economically also was imporatnt but today the US is dominant economically and it has the worst level of inequality than in most developed nations…go figure!

  • May 4, 2015 at 9:14 pm
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    No, but I would laugh at an American who would attempt to make such a silly argument. LOL!

  • May 4, 2015 at 9:09 pm
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    Are you sure your friends weren’t “pushed out” of their jobs because they were abnoxious lazy bores? You say it was because they were socialists, which pretty much amounts to the same thing, right?

    Union membership is falling because people don’t want to belong to corrupt unions who live off the sweat of their members. The choice not to join a union is a legitimate choice of free people.

    More people died in Havanas floods than died in the riots in Baltimore.

  • May 4, 2015 at 8:41 am
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    rodrigvm;

    Yeah, wages in the US rising after WWII had everything to do with the unions…and NOTHING to do with the fact that we, as a nation, had such a high preponderance of the world’s industrial capacity, along with little competition, did it? [smile]

    And, again, we were talking about FREEDOM! If workers have the right to terminate the employment relationship at ANY TIME for ANY REASON, then why shouldn’t EMPLOYERS be allowed the SAME FREEDOM?!?!? I.e. – is “freedom”, in your eyes, something only afforded to YOU, while being denied to the other guy? Sure sounds like that’s where you’re coming from…as if you’re going back to that old “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” parasitical nonsense.

    A lot of things have “contributed to the demise of labor unions” over the years…but essentially ALL of them can be traced back to the unions themselves. Where do you think non-competitiveness comes from? The concept that unions are composed of thugs? What makes unions think they can’t exist without the ab ility to COERCE funds and “support” from workers? Etc, etc.

    With that in mind, why I don’t I turn your question back on YOU. I.e. – why don’t YOU “read a bit”… and then travel a stretch beyond that section of road that allows only the consumption “intellectually” of leftist Pablum, and which has little or now relationship to reality? Still afraid of growing up, are ya’? [grin!]

    Have a good one!

  • May 4, 2015 at 3:44 am
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    Are you serious? Did you go to high school here in the US? We learned about the Taft – Hartley act in high school civics. It’s been federal law for 68 years! At least Americans have union rights. You may not agree with the limitations unions have in organizing and negotiating with corporate America but at least the relationship is an adversarial one. The sole union in Cuba is organized by and answers to the Castro government! If you are referring to illegal employees, Mexican or otherwise, then the operative word here is ILLEGAL. They do not earn the minimum wage nor do they pay state and federal taxes. Different issue for a different blog. Nonetheless they (illegal workers) here in the US have more workplace rights than their legal Cuban counterparts in Cuba.

  • May 3, 2015 at 10:15 am
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    I did not know you were and economist. Have you heard of the Taft-Hartley Law? Right to work laws (anti union0 did you see the attack that the governor of Wisconsin carried against union members? There is legal recourse if you have the money to pay a lawyer there are no public defendant attorneys for those kinds of cases. Again check your facts so at least you are accurate. Minimum wages, I have interviewed many Mexicans who are paid less than the minimum wage…read the papers..

  • May 3, 2015 at 10:12 am
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    People are fired every day from corporations that ban (illegally but they do union talk), Taft Hartley Law and right to work laws have contributed to the demise of labor unions. Wages in US are extremely low and income inequality has hit record levels (mostly because of lower rate of union membership). After WWII wages rose in the US and a middle class developed thanks to unions, now the middle class is declining…read a bit it might help in your arguments which do not hold water or rum for that matter.

  • May 2, 2015 at 10:22 am
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    Dictatorships don’t “improve” the Castros aren’t worried about bombs, they’re worried about staying in power

  • May 2, 2015 at 10:19 am
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    I’m curious Dan. How would anyone in your job know if you were “socialist” unless you were proselytizing? None of my employees know my political affiliation. So please stop talking nonsense.

  • May 1, 2015 at 5:07 pm
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    Not as long as you keep the content of your dreams to yourself, but remember Moses that criticism of the state in Cuba is an offence and the CDR is ever-present. As a non-US citizen I have to agree that some of the contributors persistently invoke the sins errors and omissions of the US political system as they see them reflecting their inability to address Cuba and matters Cuban.

  • May 1, 2015 at 3:29 pm
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    You are mistaken on many levels. Union membership has fallen in the US in large part to the fact that typical union jobs have been reduced as a percentage of the entire labor market. Your Walmart claims are baseless. Even if they were true, there is legal recourse for these workers. While enterprise zone regulations vary around the country, I have NEVER heard of EZs where minimum wage laws are waived. Finally, while the treatment of protesters in the US can stand improvement, at least they can lawfully protest. Cubans can not take to the streets to peacefully air grievances without risking being beaten, arrested or worse.

  • May 1, 2015 at 10:02 am
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    You should read my response to his comments…I was very clear..

  • May 1, 2015 at 10:02 am
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    I have friend married with Cubans who live there I travel there often, I know it very well….but if you had an enemy 90 miles away would you not be a bit paranoid? Cuban exile fanatics have placed bombs in hotel and in Puerto Rico have assassinated Cubans who wanted travel to Cuba. If the US would stop funding the mercenaries things will improve…

  • May 1, 2015 at 8:11 am
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    Would you ridicule a Saudi or North Korean national chauvinist who complains about human rights in Sweden ?

  • May 1, 2015 at 5:57 am
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    It is sooo clear you have never live in Cuba as a Cuban. If you had you will never compare the freedoms you enjoy (no matter how eroded they are) with the ones Cubans have. For starters, there is only one trade union in Cuba, managed by the government so much so that, in more than half a century it has never expressed a point of view different from the PCC. If you call that rights or freedoms…

  • May 1, 2015 at 5:08 am
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    rodrigvm;

    You seem to think that the freedom to do something equates to being relieved of the consequences of that act. Now, while you may feel you’ve been “pushed to the wall” in terms of membership, there’s been no legal bar against union membership in this country at at all; rather, “the wall” is your inability to be relevant and/or having something positive to offer society. As for the Wal-Mart employees who “have been fired for expressing interest”, I suggest you name them and provide PROOF (NOT just the usual leftist assumptive B.S.) that they were fired for that reason. Have much luck with that, have ya’? [smile]

    Look, I realize that, from the perspective of people such as yourself, the world doesn’t look all that great….but that’s not because of any lack of “freedom” or substantive “rights”; rather, it proceeds from your inability to accept responsibility for your OWN actions and your expectation that society will function as your virtual “parents”, relieving you of any obligation to take care of yourself. My suggestion is that you pull your head out the sand, take a look around at the reality of the world and, finally, GROW UP!

  • April 30, 2015 at 12:18 pm
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    Funny, as for number one, union membership in the US has fellen to 11 per cent the worst in a century because of limit that corporations and the state have placed on membership. I know, I am a labor union member and we have been pushed to the wall. As for number 2. Walmart employees have been fired for expressing interest in joining a union in the US and there are countless examples of that Number 3. In many companies if you are a socialist you will not last long in the job, have many friends in New York have been “PUSHED ” out as to number 7, are you kidding, what do you think are enterprise zones where wages are lower to attract capital investment? You need to read more and stop watching TV Marti or Fox news. Don’t you love how democratic the US is in treating the protests in Baltimore? And Obama criticized Venezuela? Hypocrites!

  • April 30, 2015 at 8:06 am
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    You are wrong. Read Griffin’s response. But what do “rights” in the US have to do with Cuba anyway? What is wrong with dreaming? So far, that has not been outlawed by the Castros, has it?

  • April 29, 2015 at 1:12 pm
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    He was talking about Cuba, and the Castro dictatorship you support.

    Of the items listed above, the following are accepted in the US:

    1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13,

    5? not sure what that means “full access to their accounts”? Do Cuban workers not have full access to their bank accounts?

    14 is not a “right” but a change in working conditions.

    In addition to those rights, people in the US have the right to freedom of speech, a free press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, the right to fair and equal treatment before the law, the right to free association and assembly. None of those right are recognized in Cuba.

  • April 29, 2015 at 11:21 am
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    This guy is dreaming, few of these rights are accepted in the US….

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