He was one of the founders and was the first president of the Organized Labor Associations and Line Industries in Agriculture (OLALIA-KMU), a nationwide federation of workers unions established since 1987.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA –On the streets to Sta. Rosa Plaza in Laguna where he once marched and chanted the peoples’ calls for economic reforms and democracy, his colleagues held a program Dec. 20 while his body was being cremated. This was his family’s request.
Labor leader Verleen Trinidad, 56, died due to a heart attack last Nov. 16. On Dec. 20, at a cultural tribute dedicated to him by his family, friends, other workers and members of progressive people’s organizations, they wore red bandanas, ribbons and armbands, which, they said, symbolized Trinidad’s “undying fighting spirit.”
Marching at Sta. Rosa, Laguna, they also carried streamers and placards with Trinidad’s face, describing him as “nationalist worker leader” and “servant of the poor”.
Organizing workers since Martial Law
A statement of the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik, Southern Tagalog regional chapter of Kilusang Mayo Uno) said Trinidad was instrumental in establishing unions in Southern Tagalog since the Martial Law years.
“He was one of the founders and was the first president of the Organized Labor Associations and Line Industries in Agriculture (OLALIA-KMU), a nationwide federation of workers unions established since 1987. He became the 5th and 4th nominee of the Anakpawis Partylist during the 2010 and 2013 elections respectively,” said Wenecito Urgel, secretary-general of Pamantik.
Trinidad’s successes at helping to establish unions and transforming “yellow unions” (leader-oriented, pro-management unions) into truly progressive unions serving the workers’ interest endeared him to workers, unionists paying homage to him said at the cultural tribute for him. But they added that because of this, Trinidad had to battle political persecution by one Philippine administration after another.
Trinidad was one of the union-leaders said to have been listed in the Order of Battle of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the late Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino’s administration.
Urgel said workers are deeply saddened by Trinidad’s death.
“He is considered as one of the mentors workers, young and old, consulted about problems concerning labor organizing. He willingly gave his time for everyone in need, even at the cost of sacrifices to his health, time for himself and for his family,” Urgel said.
Trinidad’s passing has reminded the Southern Tagalog unionists “of the immense achievements selfless workers can accomplish toward changing society, once they started to fight conscious of the principles of collective action. Urgel said that that Trinidad has done and shown is especially important now, especially because under the Benigno Aquino III government, labor conditions are getting worse as contractualization is becoming more rampant, as do joblessness and the labor export policy.
Pamantik recalled that in 1995, a mild stroke had partially paralyzed Trinidad, but he did not give up on his commitment to serve the poor. He continued to organize workers and also other sectors such as those from the urban poor, small-scale businesses and even the youth in his community. For that, Trinidad was regarded and called by many from the poor as a lawyer even if he had not acquired a degree in law. He was viewed as a lawyer because, they said, he shared sharp analysis on laws that promised to benefit residents in cases of land disputes and demolitions.
Andrianne Mark Ng, spokesperson of Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan – Southern Tagalog, also praised Trinidad’s contributions to the mass movement in the region.
“He is considered as a father-figure, friend and comrade by those he mingled with. Ka Bugoy will surely be missed by activists and freedom-loving citizens. Though his heart has stopped beating, the memories and the lessons he shared would further lend strength to the struggling ranks of Filipinos. We will never falter and he will forever live in our hearts,” Ng said.
In another statement, the Revolutionary Council of Trade Union – National Democratic Front Southern Tagalog praised Trinidad as a “proletariat who offered his strength, intellect and time for the revolution.” They called Verleen Trinidad a “true leader of the revolutionary working class,” and a “hero of the toiling masses.”