Interview with Filipino trade union leader Ed Cubelo

Entrevista by staff |
May 22, 2019
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Ed Cubelo with leaders of Minnesota's labor movement and tour organizers.
Ed Cubelo (front, 3rd from left) with leaders of Minnesota's labor movement and tour organizers.

Fight Back! Interviewed Ed Cubelo, the chairman of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, or May 1st Movement in Metro Manila, while he was in the U.S. on a speaking tour. The KMU is one the largest trade union federations in the Philippines.

Fight Back!: Can you say a few words about what the May 1st Movement is?

Ed Cubelo: The May 1st Movement, established in 1980, is a genuine, militant union promoting and advancing workers' interests.

Fight Back!: What are the main issues facing Filipino workers?

Cubelo: Among the major issues, basically, of Filipino workers are low wages, no benefits, no security of jobs, and widespread contractualization.

Fight Back!: Can you say a few words about what contractualization is and the fight against it?

Cubelo: Contractualization is a form of attack against organized labor and against Filipino workers. If you are a contractual, you have no right to join unions, no right to form a union. You have no benefits. If you work longer hours, you'll receive no extra benefits, and if you get injured at work, you get no compensation, and they are vulnerable to various types of labor abuses. This is legalized under Philippine laws, and so for many years, workers have been struggling to repeal this law and end this practice.

Fight Back!: How has the KMU been fighting contractualization?

Cubelo: So KMU has started organizing labor contractuals because we believe that, despite the presence of the law, which prohibits contractuals to form organized unions, it is the right of all workers, whether contractual or regular, to have a union, to have better working conditions, to receive a living wage, and to enjoy rights of an ordinary worker. So KMU has been asserting that these laws would be repealed, at the same time demanding that the president fulfill his promise to end contractualization.

Fight Back!: The KMU has been facing repression from the U.S.-backed Duterte regime. Could you say a few words about the repression and the fight against it?

Cubelo: Because KMU is part of the broader protests criticizing the policies, the repressive policies of the Duterte government, the state has been arresting KMU union organizers. The state has been fighting trumped-up cases against KMU leaders. The state has been demonizing the struggles of KMU, red-tagging KMU, and creating fear among workers, warning them not to join KMU. But despite distress, despite these challenges, the KMU continues to enjoy the support of many workers. KMU continues to wage protests, and KMU has been leading the struggle for the workers' welfare.

Fight Back!: Is there anything you would like to say to American workers?

Cubelo: We are appealing for the support of our brothers and sisters here in the United States, our fellow American workers, to support the struggle of the Filipino people. The situation of workers is not consistently reported in mainstream media, so please help, spreading awareness about the situation of Filipino workers, and support the struggle of the Filipino people for real nationalism and democracy.

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