The news on the Havana channel could be described as slightly closer to reality than that on the Television National News, small details make me think there are slightly younger people behind the script. The other day there were talking about the unions and they carried three interviews: two man-on-the-street interviews and one with the head of a union.
The union head explained, not very clearly, that Cuban unions have two missions: to represent the worker and the State. The first was the one everyone knew, fighting for the rights of the worker and ensuring they are not trampled; the second, a little ambiguous, refers to defending the rights of the State, which has the “goodness” to legally recognize the unions, and it was their main task because they, for their part, defended the work of the revolution. He argues that there were contradictions between the interests, but no antagonism. Honestly, I didn’t understand a thing.
The workers interviewed on the street said that their union didn’t exactly represent them, one said “they had to improve the situation.”
When I worked for the State as a teacher I had a contract with an indefinite duration, the type of contract that doesn’t give the worker the right to hardly anything (no retirement, no vacation). After two years I tried to get a fixed contract, as I assumed was my right, but I hit a bureaucratic block: I couldn’t be fixed because the “seat” of teacher was not contemplated at my center.
I talked to the union and asked its help in intervening with the directors and pressing for the creation of a seat. I began to pay almost 100 pesos a year to the union, to go to the meetings, to raise my problem… but nothing happened. The head of my union seemed to be concerned only with collecting the money, attending the meetings (at which she said absolutely nothing) and creating an unblemished Record (everything in order, everything under control). In this same period a colleague of mine got pregnant. Since leave was not covered in our contract, she was informed she wouldn’t get maternity leave. From her first through her eighth month she was working and we were pursuing all the ways to make it happen: we accomplished nothing. The union leaders made jokes in bad taste in the hallways: don’t let me see that you’re pregnant too.
A few months later I stopped paying the union and the following one I cancelled my poor contract, renewable every three months.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.