"Solidarity is what being a trade unionist is all about" - GMB Congress sends its support to Cuba

Campaign News | Tuesday, 27 June 2023

Ross Holden, Denise Walker, Lissette Rubio Mederos, Dean Ismay and Rob Miller

Ross Holden, Denise Walker, Lissette Rubio Mederos, Dean Ismay and Rob Miller

Denise Walker, Regional Secretary of GMB North West and Irish region, urged all GMB members to show their solidarity with Cuba at our fringe meeting at GMB Congress in Brighton. Denise spoke alongside Dean Ismay, a young GMB member who visited Cuba in 2019 as part of our Young Trade Unionists’ May Day Brigade, as well as Rob Miller, CSC Director, and Lissette Rubio Mederos an education specialist from Cuba and member of the Cuban Federation of Women. Ross Holden, Policy Officer at the GMB chaired the meeting.

“Solidarity is what being a trade unionist is all about – when an injustice to one becomes an injustice to all”, Denise said. “When we stand with and speak up for others in struggle around the world be it against their employer or aggression from another country it does make a real difference.”

Reflecting on her first visit to Cuba in the 1990s, Denise recalled that she saw “a country under siege as the US tightened its sanctions on the island at a time of economic crisis.” She told those in attendance that “the blockade has now been tightened once again” and urged every branch to get affiliated to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, as the need for international solidarity is now greater than ever.

Dean said that “it a privilege to visit Cuba on the 60th anniversary of the revolution”, but detailed the real impact that the blockade has on everyday life for all Cubans, from preventing access to new technologies to shortages in basic necessities such as medicines. “The US does not recognise Cuba’s right to self-determination”, he said. “Why shouldn’t Cuba, like every other country, be able to determine their own democracy?”

Lissette, who was in Britain on a speaking tour, spoke about the damaging effect of the blockade on education in Cuba. She described the shortages that the blockade causes in all levels of education – from early years provision to special educational needs to higher education. The blockade sees Cuban educators, and students, lacking resources ranging from pencils and paper, to cochlear implants, to computers. However, Lissette reaffirmed Cuba’s commitment to continue with its values, its revolution and thanked everyone in attendance for their continued solidarity. “We will keep going and, with your support, we will never give up. I would like to thank CSC, all of its members and all the members of the British trade union movement who have supported us over the years.”

Rounding off the speakers, CSC Director Rob Miller gave an update on the latest situation in Cuba and spoke of the importance of getting Cuba removed from the United States’ ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ list. Cuba’s placement on the list, a parting gift from President Donald Trump, has acted to further isolate the island and has a significant impact on the ability of Cuba to access financial markets. Campaigning to remove Cuba from the list will be a priority of CSC over the coming months.

As well as hosting a well-attended fringe, CSC also had a stall over the course of Congress, speaking to lots of GMB members about Cuba, the work of the campaign and selling a selection of Cuban merchandise and gifts, which you can also find on our online shop. Seven delegates signed up as members and two branches affiliated to the campaign.

Thank you to GMB North West and Irish region for hosting the meeting.

You can affiliate your branch to CSC here.

You can read more about the Young Trade Unionists’ May Day Brigade here.

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