Port Au Prince, Haiti – Friday 5/19/17 and Saturday 5/20/17, about 4,000 garment workers went on strike and took the streets to demand an increased minimum wage, shutting down dozens of garment factories.
The striking workers have three core demands:
- A minimum wage adjustment to 350 to 800 Gourdes daily (from $5.50 to $12.60 per day), on top of meal, transportation and housing subsidies
- Workers are demanding Social Services.
- They demand that production quotas do not increase with the increased minimum wage.
Haitian garment workers receive the lowest wage in the eastern hemisphere. Their wages are often consumed just by the transportation costs of getting to and from work. Most workers live in debt, and are often on the brink of hunger and homelessness.
Production quotas are often set impossibly high. Factory owners and management do not respect the law, and often do not pay the existing minimum wage. Union members and organizers are constantly harassed and arbitrarily fired for exercising their legal rights.
Currently, the corrupt Haitian government is also trying to extract a 13% wage tax from garment and other workers. They claim it is for social services provided. Meanwhile, access to electricity, clean water, decent roads, schools and hospitals does not exist.
Garment workers with PLASIT-BO have said, “Enough!” When you are drowning in debt; when there is not enough money for rent or food; when the company you work for is stealing your wages; there is only one option – STAND UP & FIGHT BACK.
Below is a brief report we received from organizers with SOTA-BO textile union & PLASIT-BO; How you can help; A list of entities involved for further context; and a statement regarding the strike from PLASIT-BO (in Kreyol).
Workers at several factories did not show up to work, shutting down production. Instead, they marched in the streets to demonstrate for their rights.
The textile workers marched from outside the SONAPI Industrial Park towards the presidential palace until police stopped them.
At the same time, The Association of Industries of Haiti (ADIH) put out statements to the press claiming that workers broke into factories, attacked the factories, and beat fellow workers inside the factories. Hence, they had to close on Friday 5/19 and would remain closed Saturday 5/20 and Monday 5/22.
There has been no evidence put forward to support these claims, and the RRN encourage reporters, such as Jacqueline Charles, of the Miami Herald to check facts before echoing the claims of factory owners.
The strike continued on Saturday, and workers took the streets again.
Meanwhile, at Sewing International, SA (SISA) factory, many workers stopped their work to join the demonstration, but were locked inside the factory gates by management. Eventually, they were able to join the march.
Thousands strong, garment workers blocked the road to Toussaint Louverture Airport, which is near the Sonapi Industrial Park.
To break up the workers, CIMO, Haiti’s riot police attacked them with tear gas and some kind of acid water that irritates the skin.
ADIH’s False Claims:
The Association of Industries of Haiti (ADIH) claims that workers attacked garment factories and fellow workers during this strike and mobilization. This is completely untrue and unsubstantiated, but these factory owners are using these false claims to call for repression against the workers who are justly (and legally) fighting for their rights. The factory owners claim violence by the workers for demanding the right to decent wages so they can eat, house, clothe, and educate themselves. But it is the factory owners who exercise violence everyday by exploiting these workers, illegally breaking up union activity, harassing and firing union members, and calling for police repression against the workers.
ADIH is framing this strike as being led by isolated “syndicalists and militants” who have pressured and intimidated workers to stop their work in the factories. The videos in this post do not demonstrate people being pressured to remain. Instead, they show workers march and singing passionately, denouncing the government and fighting for their rights, for decent pay, for food, housing, healthcare, and education. These workers, thousands of them, made the choice to strike.
Next Steps: how you can help
We will wait to hear from SOTA and PLASIT organizers in Haiti. The strike may continue today, Monday, 5/22/17, and they may need the RRN to help put pressure on certain entities.
The act of striking is incredibly brave. It requires a serious sacrifice, and a level of cooperation and care for their collective interest. Striking means no wages. It means hungry families, no money for transit, for school, or for the market. It means the rent will not be paid and the possibility of homelessness. And yet, the textile workers continue on… because they recognize that the only path to justice is through their collective fight. It’s their only alternative to starvation wages and further exploitation.
Let’s stand with them!
Here in the US, we are the consumers of goods inevitably produced through a process of exploitation. At this moment in time, when so much seems so wrong in the world, when we often feel powerless, let’s build people’s power!
Take an active stand with workers fighting exploitation, with people fighting for their rights.
1 – Contribute to support Haitian garment workers ongoing fight. Your contribution of $50, or any amount, will help workers continue their fight.
2 – Follow RRN for updates & other ways to take action.
Newsletter/updates sign up: http://goo.gl/Me35SH
Thank you for your solidarity!
SOTA-BO – independent textile trade union with members in several garment factories in Port Au Prince and Carrefour, Haiti. They are affiliated with Batay Ouvriye.
PLASIT–BO – a coalition of the independent textile unions throughout Haiti that are affiliated with Batay Ouvriye. Unions include SOTA-BO in Port Au Prince; SOKOWA in Ouanaminthe; and SOVAGH in Caracol.
Batay Ouvriye (Workers Fight) – a Haitian movement of autonomous textile unions and organizations of peasants, small vendors, and neighborhoods.
CIMO – Riot police of the National Police force.
The Association of Industries of Haiti (ADIH) – is the main organization of the manufacturing sector in Haiti. Its mission is to promote and develop Haiti’s industrial sectors on a worldwide competitive basis. It’s comprised of several factory owners who work with the Haitian and US states to ensure low wages and to break up union activity, so that the Haitian garment assembly industry remains “competitive” on the global marketplace. They represent the interests of factory owners to maintain the exploitation of garment workers.
The fight for a higher wage (800 Gourdes) in Haiti is ongoing. This fight, as well as the basic right to organize, is constantly met with harassment, illegal firings, and often violent repression. Manufacturers and the brands they produce for vehemently oppose workers’ rights because they interfere with their ability to extract as much profit out of the production process as possible. This means exploitation is required, and it takes many forms. Setting impossible production quotas to prevent workers from receiving the minimum wage, wage theft, and unpaid overtime are a few of these methods.
How to Help:
- Contribute to support Haitian garment workers ongoing fight. Your contribution of $50, or any amount, will help workers continue their fight.
- Be sure to follow RRN, and we will keep you posted.
Newsletter/updates sign up: http://goo.gl/Me35SH
Thank you for your solidarity!
Statement & demands from PLASIT-BO regarding the 5/19/17 Strike:
DEKLARASYON PLASIT-BO/GOSTTRA/CNOHA JOU KI 19 ME 2017*
Jodya, nou pran lari a pou ekzije gouvènman MOISE/LAFONTANT ak patwon faktori yo bay repons sou divès revandikasyon nou yo ki se :
1) Yon arete ki fikse salè minimòm lan a 800 goud pou piti san ogmantasyon tarif ak mezi akonpayman sosyal tankou sibvansyon manje, transpò ak lojman sosyal desan;
2) Pou Sena a kanpe sou pwojè lwa k ap amande 16 atik nan Kòd Travay an vigè a pou bay patwon plis avantay, alòske yo déjà ap benefisye de franchiz dwanyè, ekzonerasyon fiskal, lwa Hope/Help ak tod chanj ant goud ak dola ki favorize tranzaksyon y ap fè ak donè dòd yo, elatriye ;
3) Pou pwosesis refont Kòd Travay la reprann san pèdi tan ;
4) Pou gouvènman an ak DGI fè bak sou kesyon 13% taks ak enpo y ap fòse nou peye sou ti kraze monnen n ap touche.
5) Pou yo ogmante barèm abatman 60,000 goud la a 125,000 goud ;
6) Pou yon bon pase men fèt nan 2 pi gwo enstitisyon Sekirite Sosyal nan peyi a, ki se ONA ak OFATMA pou kotizan yo jwenn sèvis de kalite. Fòk enstitisyon sa yo pa yon manmèl bèf pou politisyen tout kalte vin tete jan yo vle ;
7) Pou MAST montre li pa nan pati pri ak patwon k ap fè pratik anti sendikal ak revokasyon abitrè tankou sa fèt nan Quality Sewing, H&H Textiles,Premium Apparel pou site sa ki pi resan yo ;
8) Pou denonse pratik abitrè gwo ponyèt ajan Sekirite SONAPI ak Lapolis fè kont manb nou ki t ap mennen aktivite sendikal yo nan espas sa a. Fòk fòs de lòd yo mete devan izin yo sispann entimide ak brutalize ouvriye ak ouvriyèz k ap defann dwa yo.
Nou pile beton an avèk anpil detèminasyon ak kouraj malgre gwo presyon ak entimidasyon patwon ak tyoul patwon yo fè sou nou. Men se sitou mepri ak mank dega Minis MAST la, Msye Roosevelt Bellevue montre nou nan denye rankont nou te genyen ak li le 16 me a ki bay gwo pwoblèm. Minis la te annik te vle fè nou pran nan menm pwomès li te fè anvan yo alòske se rezilta konkrè li te gen pou ba nou apre demach li te di li t al antreprann.
Nou déjà wè sou ki bit administrasyon Moyiz/Lafontan an kanpe. Se nan enterè gran nèg y ap travay tou sèl. Sa parèt klè nan jan yo sòt monte gaz la ak kous machin yo ki vin peye 2 fwa lavalè yo te ye ak konplisite sendika jòn nan transpò yo. Sa ki pral fè tout pwodyi premye nesesite yo monte. Met sou sa, gaz la pral kontinye monte chak fwa yon bato gaz rantre. Li klè, se kraze gouvènman sa a vin pou kraze nou plat atè.
Anplis de sa, gen patwon izin soutretans yo k ap di pou salè pa monte paske se ak salè mizè yo atire envestisè etranje nan sektè sa a . Se depi mwa oktòb pou ajisteman an te fèt selon atik 137 Kòd travay la piske to enflasyon an te déjà depase 10% epi atik 4.1 lwa 2009 sou salè minimòm lan. Kidonk, gouvènman an ap vyole dwa nou epi li konprann li ka pase nou nan tenten lè l ap vini ak pawòl degrenngòch sou salè minimòm lan ak kesyon mezi akonpayman sosyal yo di y ap bay yo.
Nou menm ki pran lari a jodya, n ap mande yo reponn nou prese prese sou revandikasyon nou mete devan yo.
ABA SALÈ MIZÈ ! ABA ESPLWATASYON ! KONPLO PATWON SOUTRETANS AK GOUVÈNMAN MOYIZ-LAFONTAN AN PAP PASE ! MOBILIZASYON NOU PAP KANPE TOUTOTAN YO PA SATISFÈ REVANDIKASYON NOU YO ! RANDEVOU KASE DEMEN DEVAN PAK SONAPI NAN MENM LÈ A. EPI DAN PI RÈD!
*(PLATFÒM SENDIKA IZIN TEKSTIL-BATAY OUVRIYE/GROUPEMENT SYNDICAL DES TRAVAILLEURS DU TEXTILE POUR LA REEXPORTATION D’ASSEMBLAGE/ CENTRALE NATIONALE DES OUVRIERS HAITIENS)