Labor Day in hell

Cuba: Cuban peasants harvest tobacco in Pinar del Río in February 2008. Cuba’s 1959 revolution obliterated labor rights in a society that once boasted a rich tradition of labor activism. Workers are not permitted to organize outside the state-controlled labor federation, and Cuban law does not grant workers the right to strike. Those who do join independent trade unions face beatings, loss of employment, confiscation of property, and imprisonment; a number of the current generation of political prisoners are locked up for workplace dissent. Because the state controls the labor market, it determines pay and working conditions for almost all workers. In the small private sector, foreign investors are required to contract workers through state employment agencies, which pocket up to 95 percent of their salaries. The minimum wage in 2008 was about 225 pesos — about $9 — per month. Workers are also required to keep an eye on their colleagues and report any “dissident” activity.