Michelle Byrne

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Michelle Byrne

May Day Brigade 2022

Thirty-one young trade unionists from Britain and Ireland joined 140 activists from around the world in Cuba spring 2022 on the first May Day Brigade for three years The young members representing unions Unite, UNISON, CWU, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA and USDAW were part of CSC’s 15th annual Young Trade Unionists’ May Day Brigade. Several of them had waited two years to make the trip after the original 2020 brigade had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After an early start from Gatwick, the group arrived at their base, the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp (CIJAM) in Artemisa province just outside Havana, on the evening of 24 April. There they met Cuban Friendship Institute (ICAP) representatives and joined up with the other volunteers from 15 countries including Chile, South Africa, Canada and the United States.

Activities were split between agricultural work, political and historical talks, visits and cultural events.

Delegates were particularly inspired to hear from two of the Miami Five heroes who visited the camp in their official capacities as leaders of two important Cuban organisations. Fernando Gonzalez, President of ICAP, and Gerardo Hernandez, National Coordinator for the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, had both spent many years unjustly imprisoned in US jails for trying to stop terrorist attacks against their countries. During his speech, Fernando presented the group with an award for CSC and its members and affiliates for 40 years of solidarity and activism against the US blockade.

As part of the political talks about Cuban society, Gerardo was joined on a panel with other representatives of Cuba’s mass organisations, in this case the first secretary of the provincial CTC (Federation of Cuban Workers) and Diana Castillo, National organiser for the Union de Jovenes Comunistas (young communists). Following the panel discussion the groups had the opportunity to split into smaller groups and have more detailed discussions.

The highlight of the trip for most of the delegation was joining a thousand international guests from 60 countries on the tribune in front of the José Martí memorial in Revolution Square to watch the first May Day march for three years.

They shared the viewing platform with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, former president Raul Castro, Ulises Guilarte General Secretary of the CTC, and the Miami Five heroes who signed several of the brigadistas’ flags and t-shirts. Havana residents marched in defiance against the blockade, for Cuban independence and in celebration of Cuban workers under the banner ‘Unity, commitment and victory’ (Unidad, compromiso y victoria).

Delegates included Johnnie Hunter, Michelle Byrne, Unite, Ireland, Charlotte Chapman, Unite the Union, East Midlands, Maisie D, TSSA, Ben Davis, Unite the Union, Twm Draper, CWU Great Western, Rob Kitley, ASLEF, South West, Laura Marshall, CWU, Alejandra Navarro-Woods, UNISON North West, Dan Pearce, Unite the Union, South East, Lauren Strain, Unite the Union, Scotland, Micaela Tracey-Ramos, UNISON North West, Nick West, Unite London and Eastern.

The delegation returned to Britain and Ireland energised and inspired by the brigade and pledged to continue to build solidarity with the Cuba people from within their trade unions and communities.[1]

References