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Vol. 79/No. 44      December 7, 2015


Fast-food and farmworkers meet Cuban revolutionaries

RICHMOND, Calif. — “We are organizing to get a contract with the United Farm Workers union,” Augustín García, a fruit tree worker at Gerawan Farming in California’s Central Valley, told Kenia Serrano and Leima Martínez here Nov. 13. On tour for the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, they were able to meet with farmworkers, Walmart workers, fast-food workers and others fighting for $15 an hour and a union to learn more about their struggles.

“We worked so hard we were literally running,” added Rafael Marquez, also part of the Gerawan fight. “We won a contract. But the company didn’t want to enforce it. The company has tried to intimidate the workers and doesn’t respect our rights. So we are still fighting.”

Shonda Roberts, a leader and co-founder of the East Bay Organizing Committee, a group of fast-food workers, described their successful fight to get her job back at Kentucky Fried Chicken after being fired. “We organized and shut down the store, and I was reinstated with pay,” she told the two Cuban revolutionaries. “As a result of this action a co-worker active in the fight for $15 won hours back that had been cut.”

“You can’t make it on what they pay you,” said McDonald’s worker Tina Sandoval. “After I pay the rent there is little left over. What we are demanding is fair treatment. And no intimidation of the workers.”

“I didn’t think twice about getting involved in the fight for $15,” Sandoval said. “My family was part of the farmworkers struggle with César Chávez, so it’s in my blood.”

“I want to give you all my solidarity in what you are doing,” Serrano told the workers. “Struggle is the only way we can win anything.”

“We are building a socialist society in Cuba, so that those who work the land will live better,” Serrano said when one of the farmworkers asked her about conditions campesinos face in Cuba. “So they will have access to schools, clinics, hospitals and culture. We do this even though Cuba is a poor country.

“We are giving out land for free, with the only condition being that the farmer work the land,” she said. “Socialism means everyone participating. Farmers in Cuba are part of the government. They help make the decisions.”

Asked if there were unions in Cuba, Serrano said, “Yes and they are strong. One of the conquests of the revolution is that over 95 percent of Cuban workers are in unions.”

The farmworkers presented Serrano with a T-shirt with the United Farm Workers eagle and postcards portraying farmworker struggles.
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