Spring Break in Havana
Fourteen students and three members of the College’s faculty and staff spent part of Spring Break in Cuba, attending (and, in some cases, participating in) the Neoliberal Globalization and Workers’ Rights International Conference in Havana. The students were classmates in “Labor Law and Transnational Solidarity in an Era of Globalization,” taught by Dean Hubbard, holder of the Joanne Woodward Chair in Public Policy. Hubbard co-founded the conference in 2000 as a forum for U.S. and Cuban lawyers and labor leaders to discuss each country’s system of workers’ rights.
The 2003 conference also included delegates from Germany, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Britain and Brazil. Two SLC students, Linda Baird ’03 and Rebekah Horowitz ’03, presented “Struggling for a Living Wage,” recounting their field work last fall for passage of Westchester County’s living wage bill, and talking about the role of students in the living wage movement (which has resonated strongly on college campuses).
Few of the conference delegates were students. For those from SLC, any challenge this posed at first soon ebbed. “I felt as the conference went on that the other people there thought of us less as students, and more as intelligent people who were interested in these issues and had something to add,” said Baird.
Hubbard co-moderated one panel and spoke at two others, including one—“The Role of the Labor Movement in the U.S. in the Current World Economic and Political Context” —with Sarah Lawrence political science faculty member Raymond Seidelman. Irene King, director of community partnerships and service learning, who led SLC delegations to Nicaragua in January and June, also accompanied the group.
“Everything we learned in Dean’s class was at the conference,” said Danielle Weekes ’03. “It was like one long class. He prepared us really well.”
Hubbard returned the compliment: “The students were so well-versed in issues the lawyers and labor leaders were talking about they could’ve run some of the seminars themselves.”
The class also met with local elected officials in Cienfuegos, 130 miles from Havana, and visited a teacher training school, a blood bank and a medical school that educates students from throughout North and South America.