July 2021 – In the wake of the assassination of corrupt Haitian president Jovenel Moise, politicians fight for power over a broken system that has never benefit Haiti’s workers, peasants and the poor. Gangs control much of the country, especially in the capital city, Port Au Prince, where they are known for burning neighborhoods, murdering, kidnapping, robbing and ransacking homes.
In the midst of this turbulence, plus already existing struggles, the Haitian workers movement, Batay Ouvriye (Workers Fight), continues their steadfast fight to gather, organize and build the power of those who are dominated and exploited.
The Rapid Response Network is raising funds to make sure they can continue their mission, even through the current chaos and dangers.
Please help us raise $10,000 to support the workers and peasants of Batay Ouvriye (BO).
You can also scroll below for more info on the situation & how funds will be used.
MORE INFO ON THE SITUATION IN HAITI
Since 1994, Batay Ouvriye has been building a nation-wide workers’ movement. They organize textile workers and informal workers (street vendors) in the cities and peasants and agricultural workers in the rural areas of Haiti.
In the capital city, Port Au Prince and just to the south in the town of Carrefour, there are chapters of the BO affiliated union SOTA – Sendika Ouvriye Teksti akl Abiman/Union of Textile and Apparel Workerse. SOTA-BO fights for workers’ increased wages, basic rights and against union busting and sexual harassment in factories. Textile workers receive less than $5 USD per day, the lowest wage in the western hemisphere, to sew the t-shirts, socks, activewear and pandemic masks that we consume in the US and Canada.
Workers were already struggling to exist based on these miserable wages. Since the pandemic, production has been severely reduced, leaving workers with no way to pay bills, send their children to school, and feed their families. To make things worse, in the last year gangs have established a strong hold in the neighborhood of Martissant, located between Carrefour and Port Au Prince. They have effectively blocked the flow of materials, money and goods to and from the southern region of the country. This means even less work for garment workers and often major delays in receiving their paychecks.
These bottlenecks and breakdowns are accompanied by the burning down of homes and neighborhoods, robbery, kidnapping and near daily massacres by the gangs. As a result, many workers have been forced to temporarily abandon their homes. Many are staying in temporary housing set up by NGOs. When workers brave the streets to go to work, or attend organizing meetings, they often arrive hungry, without transit fare to get back to their families who anxiously await their safe return.
In the rural areas peasants with BO are organizing to resist aggressive land grabs and privatization that eliminates their existence as subsistence farmers and forces them into the cities in search of work that is already in very short supply. Rich Haitian families are violently evicting peasants, hiring police and gangs to brutally assault and force them from their land and livelihoods. Much of this land is then being used to build housing and to develop agribusiness and mining. Some companies that are already present due to these land grabs include Coca-Cola and Heineken.
How Funds Will Be Used:
- $5,000 – rent for one year for the Batay Ouvriye office and meeting space in Port Au Prince. Without fair or living wages, workers have no funds to contribute to maintaining their space. This office is incredibly important not just for meetings, but as a safe place to be off the streets. The office is close to the SONAPI Industrial park where many of them work (when work is available), and where they can more easily access transportation to get back to their homes or temporary housing.
- $1,500 – three meetings for BO peasant organizers. Each of these meetings costs $500 to provide a meal and transportation costs for all attendees. At these meetings organizers from across different regions travel great distances, sometimes on foot, so they can gather to plan and coordinate their efforts.
- $500 – general assembly of delegates from various peasant organizations from different rural regions. They will meet to evaluate what they’ve accomplished in their efforts to organize small and landless peasants, and form a coordinating body to guide their future work.
- $3,000 – solidarity funds for textile workers in the Port Au Prince and Carrefour area who are out of work and also temporarily displaced. Many of their homes are inaccessible, blocked by gang strongholds and extreme violence. Many are staying in temporary shelters set up by NGOs or staying with friends. These funds will provide some temporary, emergency funds for workers to temporarily subsist. Funds may be used to buy food, pay schooling costs for children, transit fees,
Every donation counts and has a BIG impact. For some perspective, here are some suggested giving levels and what your donation can pay for.
- $36 – pays for about three days of breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus transit costs in the city for one worker.
- $60 – covers transit costs for about 12 peasants to attend a meeting in the countryside.
- $125 – pays for 275 pounds of rice and 5 gallons of cooking oil to distribute to workers.
- $360 – can cover the school enrollment fee for four elementary school children.
- $500 – covers meals and transit costs for an entire peasant meeting.
- $1,250 – covers three months of rent for the Batay Ouvriye office in Port Au Prince.
Please choose what you can give, and lend your solidarity to these brave folks who continue to fight for a better world.
PS: If you’ve donate to past RRN campaigns, thank you so much! We hope you’ll give again as these funds are desperately needed. Or, if it’s just not possible, please help us spread the word. Thank you again.