Thursday, December 27, 2012

Haiti-Dominican Republic Trade: Exports or Exploits?

By Ayiti Kale Je/Haiti Grassroots Watch
December 21, 2012

Port-au-Prince, HAITI, 21 December 2012 – “I get everything at the Haiti-Dominican Republic: carrots, squash, eggplant, cabbage, peppers, eggs, salami… everything. The border is what feeds us,” explained a merchant as she stood by her groaning stand.

The food seller – who refused to give her name because because she feared reprisals from Haitian tax collectors – sells vegetables and other food products at the Croix des Bossales marketplace, the biggest open market in the capital. Every day, hundreds of buyers and sellers clog the noisy, grimy patch of land near the country’s main port.[...]

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

World Bank "success" undermines Haitian democracy

By Ayiti Kale Je/Haiti Grassroots Watch
December 20, 2012

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dec. 20 2012 – A $61 million dollar, eight-year World Bank community development project implemented across half of Haiti has successfully repaired roads, built schools and distributed livestock.

But it also helped undermine an already weak state, damaged Haiti’s “social tissue,” carried out what could be called “social and political reengineering,” and raised questions of waste and corruption and contributed to Haiti’s growing status as an “NGO Republic” by creating new non-governmental organizations (NGOs).[...]

Read the series and watch the video:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Occupy the Port" Protests Walmart's Sweatshops in Bangladesh

"Block the Boat"  Photo: Marty Goodman/Socialist Action

By Marty Goodman, Socialist Action
December 18, 2012

Related story: Longshoremen shut down S.C. shipping terminal in protest over deadly fire at Bangladesh Walmart supplier

These are some photos of the protest Dec. 18 against Walmart at the Port of Newark, New Jersey. A ship transporting Walmart T-shirts from Bangladesh was to dock there that day. Some 60 protesters gathered at about 8 AM at the Port to draw attention to Walmart’s procurement of T-shirts from sweatshops that violate basic safety codes in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
Photo: Marty Goodman/Socialist Action

The horrific fire at the Tazreen apparel factory in Bangladesh, which killed 112 workers in November, was making clothes for Walmart leaked documents prove, despite denials (NY Times, Greenhouse, Dec. 5, 2012). A Walmart director of ‘ethical sourcing’ said in minutes leaked to The Times that correcting glaring fire and electrical safety issues at 4500 factories was not “financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.”

Spelling it out: Walmart kills
Photo: Marty Goodman/Socialist Action
The ship destined for the Port of Newark Tuesday carried clothes from a sweatshop not far from the deadly fire in Bangladesh. There were hopes that workers would not unload the ship. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. There are no details.

Truckers honked in support when they saw the signs
Photo: Marty Goodman/Socialist Action

Thisanjali Gangoda read a solidarity message from Bangladeshi workers in NYC Photo: Marty Goodman/Socialist Action
Sweatshops in Haiti also make clothes for Walmart. The wage is now about $4.80 A DAY, less than the new mandated minimum wage of about $7.00. Haiti is under a US/UN occupation, increased in 2010 by the Obama administration in the immediate aftermath of the January 12th earthquake. There will be a forum on Haiti in NYC on Saturday, January 12:

HAITI Reconstruction 3 Years after the 2010 Earthquake
Saturday, January 12 - 6 PM
CWA Local 1180
6 Harrison Street (basement), Manhattan
(Bet. Hudson St and Greenwich St)
#1 to Franklin St or A,C, E, 2 or 3 to Chambers St

A Report-Back from a Labor Solidarity Delegation
• What happened to $Billions in aid?
• Why build only sweatshops?
• Why is Haiti still under US/UN Occupation?
• Why is the minimum wage so low in Haiti?
• How is the labor movement fighting back?
• How do those struggles relate to workers struggles here and around the world?

Speakers / Photo projection:
Marty Goodman former TWU Local 100 executive board member
David Wilson Weekly News Update on the Americas
Tony Savino Photojournalist


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Haiti’s Garment Workers Join the Worldwide Fight Against Sweatshop Abuses

Labor organizers from Port-au-Prince to Ouanaminthe are sewing your underwear and agitating for international solidarity.

By Stephanie McMillan, Take Part
December 5, 2012

The garment industry is a global web of nightmares, where suppliers compete to offer their products at the lowest possible cost to stores like Walmart, The Gap and JCPenney. The cutthroat competition can mean starvation wages and unsafe conditions for the people working in sweatshops, the people who stitch, press and fold the T-shirts, pants and dresses that wind up on the shelves of U.S. stores.

This past October, several members of One Struggle (an anti-imperialist collective with chapters in South Florida and New York) traveled to Haiti to meet with workers who produce clothing for familiar brands, including Cherokee and Hanes. [...]

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Hell that is Haiti

By Marty Goodman, Socialist Action
November 15, 2012

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti—Oct. 22 was a romantic rendezvous for Bill and Hillary Clinton in Haiti, their one-time honeymoon destination. Hollywood celebs were there too—Sean Penn, Ben Stiller and sweatshop magnate Donna Karan, along with members of the Haitian elite, led by President Michael Martelly, a Washington-backed military coup supporter. “Haiti is open for business and we mean it,” Martelly said to his beaming guests.

The occasion was the opening of a new $300 million sweatshop industrial park in Caracol in northern Haiti, $124 million of it paid for by the U.S. taxpayers.[...]

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hot and Crusty Workers Win With Groundbreaking Contract

By The Internationalist
November 2012

After months of struggle, immigrant workers at the Hot and Crusty bakery/restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side have made big news for the workers movement. A solid union victory – including a union hiring hall and benefits virtually unheard of in the industry – has come through a fight that captured the attention of labor activists throughout the city and beyond. Dramatic ups and downs marked the campaign from the start, but the workers’ determination to “seguir hasta las últimas consecuencias” – to stick it out, come what may – was crucial to winning this battle. The inspiring outcome has the potential to spark further, wide-ranging efforts to organize low-wage immigrant workers throughout the food industry in New York City, “the restaurant capital of the world.”

On October 23 the Hot and Crusty Workers Association (HCWA) signed a contract with new owners of the 63rd Street restaurant. [...]

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

North Carolina's Tobacco Workers Stand to Benefit From State's Strong Farmworker Union

by David Bacon, TruthoutOctober 29, 2012

The occupational hazards, poor working and living conditions, and low wages North Carolina's tobacco workers face result from deliberate policies, but they can be meliorated by unionization and the freedom for laborers to shop their skills around.

North Carolina has one of the lowest percentages of union members in the country. Yet in this non-union bastion, thousands of farmworkers, some of the country's least unionized workers, belong to the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC). That gives the state a greater percentage of unionized farmworkers than almost any other.

The heart of FLOC's membership here are the 6,000 workers brought to North Carolina with H2-A work visas every year to pick the cucumbers that wind up in the pickle jars sold in supermarkets by the Mt. Olive Pickle Company. [...]

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Haiti: Hidden Costs of the Industrial Zone

The displacement of local farmers to build the Caracol Industrial Park neatly exemplifies the "economic development" programs the United States and international institutions regularly promote in Haiti.

by David L. Wilson, World War 4 Report
November 7, 2012

On Oct. 22 Haitian president Michel Martelly hosted the official opening of the Caracol Industrial Park, a 617-acre tax-exempt factory complex in Haiti's rural northeastern corner that promoters say will bring as many as 65,000 jobs to the country.

The Haitian president was joined by an array of foreign officials and celebrities. The United States, which invested $124 million in the project, was represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Another guest, former US president Bill Clinton, now the United Nations special envoy for Haiti, was a major promoter of the Caracol facility. [...]

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Photo of Oct. 8 workers' rally outside the Port-au-Prince industrial park, courtesy of Marty Goodman/Socialist Action.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Haiti: A Tale of Two Cities

Haiti Grassroots Watch/Ayiti Kale Je
September 24, 2012

Port-au-Prince, 24 September 2012 – One city was built just last year. A project costing over US$2 million. Dozens of brightly painted new homes, scattered across a two-hectare site. But they are empty. Some have been vandalized… and worse. The scene is desolate and sometimes disgusting. But the project’s backers say it was a “success.”

The other city is the “heart of the nation,” Port-au-Prince’s downtown. Despite hundreds of thousands dollars spent on plans and conferences, it remains dirty, disorganized, and un-reconstructed. The government is starting to build its own buildings, but what is everyone else supposed to do?

To learn more: A Tale of Two Cities

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hot and Crusty Workers to Return to Work under New Ownership after 55-Day Picket

Laundry Workers Center press release
October 26, 2012


CONTACT: Nastaran Mohit (914)557-6408,
CONTACT: Virgilio (347)394-8350,

Hot and Crusty Workers to Return to Work under New Ownership after 55-Day Picket against Store Closure; Unions Demands Met With Precedent-Setting 3-Year Contract

New York, NY, October 26, 2012—Ending a 2-month long public campaign to protest an August 31st closure of the 63rd street Hot and Crusty, workers announced today that they have come to a final agreement with the new ownership of the store, following several weeks of negotiations with investors Anthony Illuzzi and David Kay. [...]

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Low-Wage Workers March in New York -- Will It Make a Difference?

By David L. Wilson, MRZine
August 6, 2012

Several thousand union and non-union workers came together in Manhattan the afternoon of July 24 for an unusual display of solidarity between people who until the 2008 economic crisis had often seemed to belong to completely different social classes.

The event, the "New York Workers Rising Day of Action," brought out a mix of low-wage workers -- car washers, cab drivers, domestic workers, retail and restaurant employees -- and members of long-established unions for a series of protests. About 500 low-wage workers marched 17 blocks down Broadway starting at 4 pm, with brief pickets along the way at local stores and restaurants accused of exploiting workers. At 5 pm, the marchers joined a rally that filled the north end of Union Square. Another march then left from Union Square to join locked-out electrical workers rallying at the nearby Irving Place headquarters of New York's main power company, Consolidated Edison. In the evening there were more pickets, some in the Union Square area, some as far away as Brooklyn and Queens. [...]

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Activista relata problema agrario estructural y habla sobre la lucha campesina

Natasha Pitts, Adital
July 17, 2012

Haití es un país con mayoría campesina, sin embargo, esto no quiere decir que haya tierra para que todos y todas cultiven y vivan dignamente. El gobierno de este país estima que el 65% de la población vive en el campo, y Chavannes Jean-Baptiste del Movimiento de Papaye (MPP) y de Vía Campesina, asegura que por lo menos el 80% está en el área rural.

Antes del terremoto del 12 de enero de 2010 la situación ya era delicada por la falta de tierras que, como en otros países, están en manos de grandes propietarios. Actualmente las circunstancias son aún más graves. Con la llegada de familias desde la ciudad, que perdieron sus viviendas durante el terremoto, el campo se infló y cada día ofrece menos condiciones dignas de vida para hombres y mujeres. [...]

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Watch the video (in Spanish):

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Workers Take On Wal-Mart in Lower Manhattan

Immigrants who want to work here can come without authorization and be subjected to the harsh anti-immigrant enforcement measures exemplified by Joe Arpaio, the publicity-seeking sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County; or they can come “legally” as guest workers to serve at the pleasure of whatever company holds their contract.

By David L. Wilson, NYC Indymedia
July 5, 2012
Originally at this now broken link:

Four Mexican guest workers came to New York the last weekend in June to hold a 24-hour hunger strike protesting labor practices by suppliers for the retail giant Wal-Mart.

About 20 supporters turned out for a small rally the morning of Saturday, June 30, in a semi-public park beside a luxury apartment building on Spruce Street, a few blocks from City Hall. The four Mexicans—who were employed at CJ’s Seafood, a Wal-Mart supplier in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, through the government’s H-2B temporary worker program—chose the site because Wal-Mart board member Michelle Burns lives there.

In theory H-2B workers enjoy full labor rights. But the reality is different, hunger striker Ana Díaz explained at the rally as the temperature rose past 90 degrees. Workers in the program are only authorized to stay in the United States as long as they work for a specific employer, she said, and CJ’s Seafood general manager Michael LeBlanc told the workers this meant their visas were really his visas. He could take them away any time he wanted.

So LeBlanc felt free to make the immigrants work long shifts without overtime, sometimes from 2 am to 6 pm, sometimes for a full 24 hours. On at least two occasions he had the doors blocked so the workers couldn’t leave, and one supervisor threatened to hit workers with a shovel if they didn’t get back to work fast enough after breaks. The Worker Rights Consortium, an independent monitoring group, confirmed these and other allegations in a June 20 report.

After one of the employees told local police about labor abuses at the plant in May, LeBlanc called the company’s 40 guest workers together for a meeting. He knew “good and bad people” in the United States and in Mexico, he said, according to Díaz, and if his employees complained to the government, he could get at them and their families wherever they went.

This threat was too much for eight of the workers. They joined the National Guestworker Alliance, a project of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, and on June 4 they did something H-2B workers rarely dare to do—they went on strike.

--“Joe Arpaio or CJ’s Seafood”--

When told about the horrendous working conditions undocumented immigrants face in the United States, many people ask: “Why don’t they just get legal?” After all, we have temporary worker programs: why don’t the immigrants come here through those?

But for immigrant workers there’s no meaningful difference between “legal” and “illegal” work, National Guestworker Alliance lead organizer Jacob Horwitz told the rally. Immigrants who want to work here can come without authorization and be subjected to the harsh anti-immigrant enforcement measures exemplified by Joe Arpaio, the publicity-seeking sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County; or they can come “legally” as guest workers to serve at the pleasure of whatever company holds their contract.

“The choice for immigrant workers is between Joe Arpaio in Arizona and CJ’s Seafood in Louisiana,” Horwitz said.

--“It’s for All the Workers”--

Despite its size, the strike by eight guest workers has been remarkably successful so far, partly because of the tactic of targeting Wal-Mart.

Saket Soni, the alliance’s executive director, announced at the rally that 145,000 people had already signed an online petition set up by to support the workers’ demands, and some 500 people around the world had committed to fasting for 24 hours in solidarity with the workers. But the big news that morning was on the front page of the New York Times business section: Wal-Mart was suspending CJ’s Seafood as a supplier.

Soni cautioned that the victory was still partial. Wal-Mart executives had only suspended CJ’s Seafood pending an investigation of the company’s labor practices—and had done it after the end of the season for crawfish, the product that Wal-Mart buys from the Louisiana firm. And this was just one abusive employer among many; alliance researchers reported that they had found labor violations at 12 of the 18 Wal-Mart suppliers that they tracked because they employ guest workers.

The four workers in Lower Manhattan looked tired as the rally ended, and maybe a little intimidated by the posh neighborhood they found themselves in, or by the prospect of fasting outdoors in the midst of a New York heat wave. But they hadn’t lost the determination that led them and their four colleagues to take action against their employer.

“We’re not in the struggle just for ourselves,” striker Fernando Navarro said. “We’re here to improve conditions for all the workers.”

For more information, see the Worker Rights Consortium report:

The National Guestworker Alliance report is at:

You can sign the petition at:

David L. Wilson is co-author, with Jane Guskin, of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers [], Monthly Review Press, July 2007. He also co-edits Weekly News Update on the Americas, a summary of news from Latin America and the Caribbean. [

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why Haiti Wasn’t “Built Back Better”

By David L. Wilson, Upside Down World
April 17, 2012

Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake. Mark Schuller and Pablo Morales, editors. Kumarian Press, 2012. Paperback, 288 pages, $24.95.

Earthquakes may be hard to predict, but it should have been easy to foresee the disaster that would result from the sort of quake that hit Haiti in January 2010. Haiti’s failure to recover in the two years since was just as predictable.

The structural problems that turned a bad earthquake into a cataclysm go all the way back to Haiti’s colonial history, but the immediate causes are much more recent. [...]

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