MUA delegation returns from May Day in Cuba

Published: 13 May 2009

Watch the May Day in Cuba film by Jamie McMechan, MUA film unit

MUA officials, rank and file wharfies, seafarers, women, youth and veterans from around Australia were among workers from 58 countries to meet in Cuba for the May Day Celebrations, the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution and 70th anniversary of the organised trade union movement, this month. Two hundred trade unions from around the globe were represented in addition to over 700 delegates from solidarity movements.

On May Day the delegation headed off to the Plaza de la Revolucion. In the glow of the sunrise the crowds gathered and assembled on the street below. A giant statue of Cuban national hero Jose Marti looking down on them.

An estimated 1.4 million joined the rally which marched past President Raul Castro for four hours.

"It was like a human river that just kept flowing" one delegate said.

The enthusiasm of the people was overwhelming. They made costumes and signs from anything they could find. They carried pictures of Cuban revolutionary leaders Fidel Castro and Che Guevara . And they waved flags with pride and happiness. It was an amazing spectacle that everyone present will remember forever.

Over the next few days the delegation visited William Soler hospital which the MUA has a long history of supporting. They presented gifts to the children and made another donation.

Our delegation also made presentations to the Cuban Council of Trade Unions (CTC) and the Maritime Union (SNTMMPP) recognising their 70 year anniversary and our pledge for solidarity.

The highlight of the event was meeting the families of the Cuban 5. Five Cuban men are in US prison, serving four life sentences, after being wrongly convicted in a US federal court in Miami, on June 8, 2001.

They are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.

The Five were accused by the US government of committing espionage conspiracy and other related charges.

The stories of these brave wives, mothers and sisters affected all present. The MUA and other Australian unions pledged to join in the struggle to Free the 5 beginning with a postcard campaign to President Obama.

The MUA was regarded with respect during our stay, thanks to our long ties and solidarity with Cuba over many decades.

Jamie McMechan, MUA film unit, was among the delegation and will be producing a short film for distribution to all branches and members.

For more information on the Cuban 5 go to:

Cuba Friendship Society

Free the Cuban 5

The MUA delegation was made up of branch officials Mick Carr, Qld; Warren Smith, Paul McAleer, Sydney; Dave Schleibs, Victoria; Keith McCorriston, WA; Glen Williams, SNSW;Clem Clothier, SA;Peder Bull, Tasmania; Jim Boyle and Len Covell, SNSW and Mich-Elle Myers, national women's liaison officer. Rank and file members include Ian Hill, Sean Drury, Silas Newlyn, Michael Firmin, Shane Ralph, Stephen Richardson, Neil Swanson, Mark Johnston and MUA veteran John James.



Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney