From May 27-30, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Convention in Denver, Colorado, raised awareness of the campaign for Justice for the Cuban Five and their families.
This was the very first time that a US union had provided space to raise awareness about the five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the US for fighting terrorism.
Thanks to the relationship between the SEIU and its sister union in Britain, Unite, the British Cuba Solidarity Campaign (BCSC) was present in Denver to hand out hundreds of leaflets, DVDs, action cards and badges to the 2,000 delegates from all over the United States and Canada.
For the past three years, Unite and BCSC have been working with US unions to raise awareness of the case of the Five. Several delegations to Cuba have been organized to enable SEIU representatives to meet with the families of the five and take up their fight for justice within the US.
Running the stall at the SEIU Convention were Natasha Hickman, from the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in Britain, and Alicia Jrapko from the International Committee for Freedom for the Five in the US. During the Convention they were able to speak to hundreds of delegates, many of whom had never heard of the case of the Five before.
"It was a long way to come to run a booth at a union conference, but it was worth traveling every mile. We really made an impact here. Hundreds of delegates were talking about the case and visiting the booth to find out more. Those that knew about the Five were really happy to have us here and many others, on hearing about the Five for the first time, promised to raise the campaign back in their locals," said Natasha Hickman, BCSC Communications Manager.
Many SEIU members within the Latino community knew of the case already, and a Latino Caucus meeting of almost 200 delegates gave their support for the campaign for freedom and visitation rights for their families.
"We’re so glad you are here to raise awareness of this injustice. I am really happy the SEIU has given you a stall," said one delegate.
After watching the campaigning DVD produced by Unite, another delegate returned to the stall the next day and said: "I watched your film and am going to take the issue back to my local and get them to support it."
Speaking about the feedback from delegates, Natasha said: "We didnt know what response or reaction we would get from the delegates, so we were really moved to get so much support and interest from from them when they heard about the injustice."
"Everyone we spoke to was shocked to hear the story and how little coverage there was in the US media. From the reception we received and the numbers of people we were able to speak to at all levels within the union, we are sure being here will help to increase awareness and action for the Five within the US.
We would like to thank Unite and the SEIU for making this possible, and helping us break the silence and take the message to hundreds of new people."
May 30, 2012