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June 2006
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US Labor Leaders Appeal to Castro to Release Imprisoned Trade Unionists

U.S. Labor Leaders Appeal to Castro to Release Imprisoned Trade Unionists


Cuban workers given lengthy jail sentences for efforts to form free
trade unions

Campaign for Free and Independent Trade Unions in Cuba, June 5, 2006.

WASHINGTON – A petition urging Cuban President Fidel Castro to release
eight workers imprisoned for attempting to form free trade unions was
delivered to the U.S. Cuban Interest Section today. The petition, signed
by leaders of 23 U.S. unions, calls on Castro to restore fundamental
workers’ rights guaranteed by international conventions long ignored by
the Cuban regime.

“Cuba is obligated as a member of the International Labor Organization
and as a state which has ratified Conventions No. 87 and 98 to guarantee
freedom of association – the right of workers to form organizations of
their own choosing and to bargain collectively. But these rights have
long been repressed in Cuba,” the petition states. The ILO is the oldest
UN organization.

The workers were among scores of journalists, human rights activists and
pro-democracy reformers who were rounded up and imprisoned in Cuba in
2003 for terms up to 26 years. While some of the others have been
released, the trade unionists remained locked in walled-in cells “filled
with vermin and rats,” according to a report by the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Some are gravely ill because of the
harsh prison conditions and lack of medical attention.

Those jailed include Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, Alfredo Felipe Fuentes,
Miguel Galván, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, Nelson Molinet Espino and Hector
Raúl Valle Fernández. Another, Carmelo Díaz Fernández, has been granted
leave status because of failing health. Lázaro González Adán, has been
in prison since October 2004 without charges or trial.

“The only ‘crime’ they committed was talking with other workers about
organizing to bargain with their employers,” said Thomas R. Donahue, the
former president of the AFL-CIO who is spearheading the campaign. “What
Castro is doing to these men not only is inhumane, but it also is a
violation of international law.”

The ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association in June 2005 issued a
report finding that Cuba was in violation for imposing a trade union
monopoly controlled by the state, and urged the immediate release of the
imprisoned workers:

“The Committee can only express the firm hope that the Government will
take steps to ensure a climate free of violence, pressures or threats of
any kind so that trade union activities can be carried out freely, even
by organizations which do not share the same economic and social
objectives,” the report concluded.

Cuba Petition – 2

Union leaders signing the petition submitted today to the Cuban
government represent millions of American workers in both the AFL-CIO
and Change To Win labor federations. They include: Leo W. Gerard,
president of the United Steelworkers; Edward J. McElroy, president of
the American Federation of Teachers; James P. Hoffa, president of the
International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Edwin D. Hill, president of the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; R. Thomas Buffenbarger,
president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers; William Lucy, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of
State, County and Municipal Employees and chairman of the AFL-CIO
International Affairs Committee; Stuart Appelbaum, president of the
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/United Food and Commercial
Workers; William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union;
and Capt. Duane E. Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
(Full list of signers appears below. Petition available upon request.)

In response to the Campaign for Free and Independent Trade Unions in
Cuba, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney added his voice in April, sending a
letter to Castro urging the release of the imprisoned trade unionists.
The AFL-CIO’s International Affairs Committee also has endorsed the
campaign to insist on freedom of association and freedom of expression
in Cuba.

Full list of signers:

Paul E. Almeida, President, Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store
Union, UFCW
Baxter M. Atkinson, President, American Federation of School Administrators
Dana A. Brigham, General President, International Union of Elevator
R. Thomas Buffenbarger, International President, International
Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers
William Burrus, President, American Postal Workers Union
Thomas R. Donahue, Former President, AFL-CIO
John J. Flynn, President, International Union of Bricklayers & Allied
Warren S. George, President, Amalgamated Transit Union
Leo W. Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers
Edwin D. Hill, President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Joseph J. Hunt, President, Iron Workers International
Frank Hurt, President, Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain
Millers International Union
Thomas F. Lee, President, American Federation of Musicians
James C. Little, International President, Transport Workers Union
William Lucy, International Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of
State, County & Municipal Employees; Chairman, AFL-CIO International
Affairs Committee
Edward J. McElroy, President, American Federation of Teachers
Patrick Quinn, President, Actors’ Equity Association
Kinsey M. Robinson, International President, United Union of Roofers,
Waterproofers, & Allied Workers
Michael Sacco, President, Seafarers International Union
Michael J. Sullivan, General President, Sheet Metal Workers
International Association
Capt. Duane E. Woerth, President, Air Line Pilots Association, International

Campaign for Free and Independent Trade Unions in Cuba
1925 K Street, NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20006
Tel: 202-347-2359
Fax: 202-347-2531

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