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Union leaders and their members joined with community organizers from all over Southern California on Friday November 21, for a luncheon meeting at the Laundry and Dry Cleaning International Union Hall of Workers Unite- SEIU in Los Angeles to talk about the case of the Cuban 5.
The purpose of the well attended meeting was to hear an update of labor’s involvement in the case and how to expand the work of solidarity with this case in the heavily populated area of Southern California. Those attending included Steven Weinglass, brother of Leonard Weinglass, who until his death was the leading attorney for the Five, well-known local artist Francisco Letelier, whose father, Chilean Foreign Minister under the Presidency of Salvador Allende, Orlando Letelier, was assassinated in Washington D.C. in 1976 and Rev. Orlando Rivera, from the United Methodist Church in Victorville, located near the Penitentiary where Gerardo Hernandez is serving two life sentences.
The occasion was marked by the presence of Tony Woodley, former General Secretary of UNITE, the largest trade union in England. Woodley is a long time supporter of Cuba and the Cuban 5 and has been instrumental in helping the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 gain in roads into national labor conferences in the U.S. to bring about more awareness of the case to trade union workers in this country. Woodley reminded those in attendance that currently there is a window of opportunity in the political climate in the U.S. for the freedom of Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero but that we had to seize the moment and push harder because nothing is a foregone conclusion.
The meeting was initiated by Cristina Vasquez, International Vice President, Workers United, Regional Manager WSRJB. A number of speakers delivered brief remarks about different aspects of the case including Mike Garcia, former President of USWW, Tom Hayden, author and politician, director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center, Peter Schey, President and Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5.
At the end of the meeting a constructive discussion took place on practical things that could be done to enhance the work towards ending the injustice as soon as possible.