The U.S. Treasury Department recently issued a “cease and desist order” to the U.S. – Cuba Labor Exchange because of that organization’s plan to send a delegation to Cuba at the end of April. The group went anyway, despite threatened criminal charges.

In Havana, members of the UAW, SEIU, AFSCME, UNITE HERE, and the Teamsters union, along U.S. peace activists, attended a conference on the FTAA, a gathering that had specifically been put off limits by the Treasury order. The U.S. activists were present May 1 for Cuba’s International Workers’ Day celebration.

The US/Cuba Labor Exchange, founded in 1991, has sent more than 30 delegations to Cuba to learn about Cuba and the role of unions there, plus interact with Cuban workers. The Detroit-based group has also brought Cuban trade unionists to the United States.

On travel to Cuba, the Labor Exchange is not alone. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told a Cuba Action Day gathering in Washington, April 27, “We cannot credibly urge freedom for others if we don’t respect our own citizens’ most fundamental right to travel wherever they want.” Two days earlier he joined others to introduce a bipartisan bill (S 894) to repeal the travel ban. The bill has 16 co-sponsors.

The Labor Exchange plans to fight prosecution and will continue “to encourage international discussion, exchange and solidarity between workers in Cuba and the United States.” Pledges and contributions may be sent to: Justice for Cuba Coalition, P.O. Box 39188, Redford, MI 48239. The group’s e-mail address is laborexchange@aol.com.

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