San Diego labor unions welcomed Filipino labor leader Ed Cubelo of Kilusang Mayo Uno (the May First Movement) on March 28. Cubelo is on a national tour to report on conditions facing workers in the Philippines under the rule of U.S. ally President Rodrigo Duterte, whom he characterized as a fascist dictator. The meeting was held at the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.
Cubelo began his presentation and accompanying slide show with a map showing the location of the Philippine archipelago in the Pacific, followed by photos displaying the beauty and richness of the islands. He explained that while the Philippines has trillions of dollars of valuable minerals and other natural resources, none of this natural wealth benefits the people.
Cubelo provided up-to-date statistics: The Philippines has a workforce of 43 million, and workers are paid on average the equivalent of $2 to $3 per day — far below the poverty level. Some 1.3 million workers lost their jobs in 2017, and an estimated 387,000 jobs have been lost so far in 2019.
Filipino workers are fighting for regularization of work, which means full-time employment with benefits for everyone, as opposed to Endo contract work, which is short-term employment that has been deemed illegal under the Philippines labor code. The Pepsi company recently laid off 1,000 workers to avoid regularization.
Cubelo showed a slide of people living in inhumane conditions, unable to afford a place to stay or food to eat. Some of them work many hours with no overtime pay or benefits.
But Filipino workers are fighting back. Huge demonstrations, walkouts and nationwide strikes are taking place all across the Philippines. Workers are organizing campaigns to end contractualization, for a national minimum wage, to abolish regional wage boards and for the right to organize. Workers are saying “Yes to Regularization.”
The workers are also demanding an end to anti-union repression, attacks on workers, harassment and illegal arrests of trade unionists, and to free all political prisoners.
President Duterte publicly declared the KMU “the legal front of a terrorist organization.” In fact, said Cubelo, it is Duterte’s administration that is the terrorist organization, with his goons, who form military death squads, killing people with no charges, trials or convictions.
KMU is the Philippines’ genuine, militant and anti-imperialist labor center that stands with the workers and peoples of the world in defending the right to strike, he said. The KMU supports the International Trade Union Confederation in upholding the right to strike.
When asked what workers here in the U.S. can do to help, Cubelo urged unionists to “support our workers’ school” by making a donation to fund the Paaralang Crispin Beltran (PCB) aka Crispin Beltran Workers’ School.
PCB is a workers’ school honoring the memory of one of the most respected labor leaders in the Philippines, Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran. It was established to continue his legacy: to help the working class free itself from exploitation and poverty. The school aims to give that capacity to workers through education that will arm them in organizing and mobilizing their own ranks. The school is for contractual and nonunionized workers in Metro Manila. It is free of charge for all nonunionized workers.
The Filipino youth organization AnakBayan encouraged everyone to write to their local congressional representatives urging them to defend human rights in the Philippines by ending U.S. funding for the Philippine military and police. Those tax dollars should be redirected to fund social services, like education, health care and housing.
At the end of the meeting, everyone gathered for a group photo and chanted, “International worker solidarity!”
The meeting was organized and sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) San Diego, AnakBayan San Diego and Migrante San Diego.