Cuban labor leader hosted by New York union
Gary Bono/PW

NEW YORK—On Saturday evening, July 8th, a locally based union, the New York State Nurses Association, hosted Victor Manuel Lemagne Sánchez, leader of the Cuban Hotel and Tourism union, who addressed a gathering on union organizing in Cuba, the Cuban health care and delivery system, and the ongoing U.S.-imposed blockade. Sánchez is also a delegate of the CTC, the central union of Cuban workers, and is a member of the Cuban National Assembly. The event was cohosted by another health care workers union 1199, part of SEIU.

People’s World has been following Lemagne Sánchez’ tour. Reports on his Northern California and Southern California appearances can be seen here.

One of the first points Sánchez made on this historic visit was to emphasize the importance of such person to person contacts. He held out the possibility of organizing low-cost travel, room and board in Cuba for U.S.-based union delegations.

Sánchez noted with pride that he was from the historic Cuban city of Trinidad, famous for having maintained its cultural and architectural traditions for some 500 years, and thus an important center for tourism. In Cuba, he said, 95 percent of workers are unionized: They work in either the state or the private sector or are retirees. He added that in Cuba managers are also in the union, but they are not the owners of the enterprises; rather it’s the working people who are the owners. In this context, he emphasized the role of the masses of working people in important government directives: For example, there was broad participation in the development of the new labor code.

As a leader in the tourism sector of the nation’s economy, Sánchez said that the goal is to expand aggressively, but with an eye to insuring that tourism would not be based on gambling and prostitution as in the past. In explaining the Cuban approach to development in general, he said that state ownership of the means of production is complemented by the tourism industry which has a large state component but also has within it half a million privately employed workers.

As to what those interested in solidarity with Cuba could do concretely to work against the blockade, he spoke about the desperate need for alternate means of getting information about Cuba widely disseminated. Most of the U.S. media fails to cover the inhuman blockade imposed on Cuba by its powerful neighbor to the north. The sanctions imposed against Cuba represent the longest term of such measures taken by one country against another in history.

Despite Trump’s bluster, people are still traveling to Cuba: Tourist visits from the U.S. are now second only to such from Canada. In the event it becomes necessary, Sánchez said there would need to be mass action to defeat any proposed restrictions on travel.

Victor Sánchez continues his U.S. tour with a reception to be hosted by Local 1300 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in Baltimore on Mon., July 10.


Gary Bono
Gary Bono

Gary Bono is an activist and retired transit worker writing from New York.