Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wage Hike in Haiti Doesn’t Address Factory Abuses

By Jane Regan, IPS
December 3, 2013

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 3 2013 (IPS) - Haiti’s minimum wage will nudge up 12 percent on Jan. 1, from 4.65 to 5.23 dollars (or 200 to 225 gourdes) per day. Calculated hourly, it will go from 58 to 65 cents, before taxes.

But the raise will not affect Haiti’s 30,000 assembly factory workers, who are supposed to already be receiving about seven dollars for an eight-hour day – about 87 cents per hour. Recent studies have found rampant wage theft at almost two dozen of the factories that stitch clothing for companies like Gap and Walmart.[...]

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

U.S. Retailers Decline to Aid Factory Victims in Bangladesh

By Steven Greenhouse, New York Times
November 22, 2013

One year after the Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh, many retailers that sold garments produced there or inside the Rana Plaza building that collapsed last spring are refusing to join an effort to compensate the families of the more than 1,200 workers who died in those disasters.

The International Labor Organization is working with Bangladeshi officials, labor groups and several retailers to create ambitious compensation funds to assist not just the families of the dead, but also more than 1,800 workers who were injured, some of them still hospitalized. [...]

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Friday, November 22, 2013

The challenges of reforestation

By Ayiti Kale Je/Haiti Grassroots Watch
November 19, 2013

Doucet (Petit-Goâve), HAITI, 19 November 2013 – Reforestation and soil conservation programs costing many hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Petit-Goâve region have resulted in hundreds of small ledges built of straw or sacks of earth. Eight to ten months later, in certain areas the earthworks seem to be lasting. But in many others, these little “shelves” have disintegrated.

The construction and destruction of the anti-erosion ledges – all made with development assistance and humanitarian donations – offer an example of how at least some of Haiti’s reforestations projects turn out. In some cases, at least, they could be considered vicious circles. [...]

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Fight For 15 Confidential

How did the biggest-ever mobilization of fast-food workers come about, and what is its endgame?

By Arun Gupta, In These Times
November 11, 2013

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-backed campaign to organize fast-food workers nationwide is on a roll. It’s entering its second year in the public eye, having staged four one-day strikes, culminating in a 60-city walkout on August 29. It’s a bold move by one of the nation’s largest unions to organize an unorganized private-sector workforce numbering in the millions.[...]

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stand With Haitian Workers for a Living Wage!

On November 29th, after years of delay and wage theft, a minimum wage increase will be announced in
Haiti. Batay Ouvriye (Workers' Struggle), an autonomous workers' organization, is mobilizing around the country to demand an increase to 500 gourdes (approximately $11.50)--the minimum for a family to survive.

The current minimum wage is only 300 gourdes (85 cents/hour), and even that is not being paid by the factories. Most receive only 200 gourdes (57 cents/hour).

Batay Ouvriye is mobilizing around the country for workers to voice their demands, what they say they actually need for a minimum wage. This takes money to travel, print thousands of flyers, host trainings and protests.

The US-based organization One Struggle has set up an indiegogo campaign to raise $3,200 to help pay for the mobilization in Haiti. To learn more and to contribute, go to:

For more information on the minimum wage situation, go to:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Queens 'Carwasheros' Strike to Demand Owner Recognize Union

By Stephanie West, Labor Press
October 29, 2013

New York, NY – Workers at Off-Broadway Car Wash in Queens walked off the job today to demand that the owner recognize the union. The owner has been ducking the efforts of the National Labor Relations Board to set up an election despite a government subpoena being issued.

The “carwasheros” left their posts at 42-08 80th St. in Elmhurst, at 8:30 a.m., soon after clergy, elected officials, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), community supporters and advocates from New York Communities for Change and Make the Road New York held a press conference denouncing the owner for ignoring federal regulators. [...]

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Return of the Nicaraguan Revolution

This was something that US commentators failed to understand about Nicaragua. There had been a real revolution. It wasn’t a seizure of power by a little band of Marxists; it was tens or hundreds of thousands of people like these women organizing themselves and their neighbors.

By David L. Wilson, Truthout
October 22, 2013

Nicaragua’s 1979 revolution is back in the news, at least in New York City.

On September 23 The New York Times ran a front-page article on the decades-old Nicaragua solidarity activism of Bill de Blasio, now the frontrunner in New York’s November 5 mayoral election. Some two dozen other articles quickly appeared in the local and national press, most of them recycling old perspectives on the thousands of us who, like de Blasio, traveled to Nicaragua in the 1980s to demonstrate our opposition to the Reagan and Bush administrations’ efforts to overthrow that country’s government.[...]

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Wobblies — another way forward for low-wage workers?

By Chris Longenecker, Waging Nonviolence
October 4, 2013

With next to no planning and little experience with labor law or direct action, all four workers on the late-night shift at the Insomnia Cookies store in Cambridge, Mass., walked off the job on August 18, declaring themselves on strike. Fed up with inadequate wages, long shifts without a break and no benefits, they timed the strike to begin with Insomnia’s midnight rush, causing maximum financial damage to the firm. As striking Insomnia worker Jonathan Peña put it, “We don’t have anything to lose.”

Insomnia Cookies has more than 30 branches nationwide. The chain specializes in delivering cookies and milk in areas with large college-student populations. Its busiest times are between midnight and 2:45 a.m., when students have returned from a night out and are willing to pay a premium for Insomnia’s treats to be delivered to their dorm rooms. [...]

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Behind Haiti’s Hunger

Ayiti Kale Je/Haiti Grassroots Watch
October 10, 2013

Port-au-Prince, HAITI, 10 October 2013 – During the past year or so in Haiti, as humanitarian actors raised a cry of alarm about hunger, Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) journalists kept hearing complaints and rumors about the misuse, abuse, or negative effects of food aid.

Our journalists and the community radio members who worked with them decided to investigate.

Why – when the country has received at least one billion U.S. dollars worth of food aid between 1995 and the 2010 earthquake – is hunger on the rise?

Who are the actors in the “hunger games” in Haiti and internationally?

What can be done that isn’t currently being done? [...]

Read the articles and watch the videos:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Opportunities Present for “Labor Left” in Walmart and Fast Food Fights

By Ryan Hill, Solidarity
October 1, 2013

For the first time in many years, there are not one, but two exciting new campaigns that have great potential to put unions back on the map of public consciousness. The efforts to organize workers at Walmart as well as workers at fast food restaurants and other big box stores in cities across the US have caught the attention of millions of people who previously had little to no connection to organized labor.

In this article, I offer some thoughts on what makes these campaigns so exciting, followed by a sober assessment of the challenges that they face. I’ll close with four recommendations for radicals looking to get involved in supporting these efforts, as I believe they should.[...]

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Low-wage workers, top-down unions

As large unions orchestrate dramatic actions around the plight of low-wage workers, it remains an open question what control the workers themselves will have.

By Peter Rugh, Waging Nonviolence
September 30, 2013

August 29 was a typically cool, wet summer day in downtown Seattle. “We support you!” cried the crowd of 30 or so gathered outside Specialty’s Café, their voices reverberating off the glass facades of adjacent downtown buildings. To remain open, the restaurant had been forced to call in extra staff. Six of its workers had joined the national fast-food workers’ strike that day to demand $15 per hour and a union.

The crowd in front of Specialty’s was distinctly of the type able to attend an anti-corporate demonstration in the middle of a workday — young and mostly white, trying to act as allies. Their chants were not those of workers with a grievance so much as those of outsiders seeking to connect with Speciality’s labor force inside. [...]

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

WNU Supplement: Nicaragua Solidarity Back in the News

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Special Supplement, September 30, 2013

1. NYC Mayoral Frontrunner Was Nicaragua Activist: NY Times
2. The Right Reacts: Anti-Semitism and the “Marxist Playbook”
3. “Purely and Nobly American”: Times Writers
4. Solidarity Activists Deconstruct the Media Coverage
5. Who Were the Real Anti-Semites?

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. NYC Mayoral Frontrunner Was Nicaragua Activist: NY Times
On Sept. 23 the New York Times ran a 2,000-word front-page article by reporter Javier Hernandez about New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio’s work in solidarity with Nicaragua during the late 1980s and early 1990s. De Blasio, the Democratic candidate and the current frontrunner in the Nov. 5 election, has spoken a number of times about his activist past, but the Times article was the first lengthy treatment of the subject. It highlighted his work with Quest for Peace--a program of the Quixote Center, a faith-based Maryland social justice organization--and with the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York (NSN). The NSN was formed in 1985 as a coalition of local Nicaragua solidarity groups and sister city projects; its only activity now is the sponsorship of the Weekly News Update on the Americas.

Although the facts in the article were generally accurate, the tone revived the dismissive attitude toward solidarity activism that was common in US mainstream media during the 1980s, when the US government was sponsoring a war of attrition in which rightwing fighters known as “contras” tried to wear down support for Nicaragua’s ruling party, the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Hernandez described the young de Blasio as “scruffy,” characterized the Quixote Center by its offices “filled with homegrown squash and peace posters,” and referred to the NSN as “a ragtag team of peace activists, Democrats, Marxists and anarchists.” [...]

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Did War Talk Drown Out Anti-Sweatshop Activism at NY Fashion Week?

by David L. Wilson, Grassroots Solidarity
September 16, 2013

Fashion models and a Bangladeshi labor organizer joined some two dozen local activists outside a New York Fashion Week show on Sept. 6 for a press conference highlighting the use of sweatshop labor by Nautica and the VF Corporation, which owns Nautica and 29 other garment companies.

Photo: Josh Koenig
Standing on the sidewalk in front of Lincoln Center's main plaza, Kalpona Akter, the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), described her conversations with a woman who lost a limb last April in the collapse of Rana Plaza, a commercial building in the Dhaka area where more than 5,000 garment workers were employed in several different factories. According to Bangladesh's government, 1,132 workers are known dead, with many still missing; some 2,000 of the survivors were injured.

“Who is responsible for this?” Akter asked the protesters. “Definitely the retailers like VF,” she said, answering herself.

Corporate responsibility was the focus of the press conference, which included Sara Ziff, a model and activist who modeled in a Nautica advertising campaign ten years ago. The organizers—the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS)—are pushing U.S. apparel manufacturers and retailers to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, an agreement that would commit the companies to improving conditions in the Bangladeshi factories where many of their products are assembled.

So far 86 companies, largely European, have signed on, but major U.S. retailers like VF and Walmart have refused, insisting that their own monitoring system will be adequate.

From Dhaka to Greenwich Village

U.S. anti-sweatshop activists are hoping that the Rana Plaza disaster will arouse the public here to demand safety conditions for overseas garment workers in the same way that the 146 deaths in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York built up the public pressure that resulted in a number of U.S. workplace safety laws. USAS’s Caitlin MacLaren noted the parallel at the press conference; the Greenwich Village building where the fire broke out is still standing today and is part of the campus at New York University, MacLaren’s school.

“This year,” she warned the retailers, “students across the country will be saying: ‘You are going to sign the accord.’”

But even with Sara Ziff and four other models, the press conference faced a lot of competition on the sidewalk outside Fashion Week. Vendors were hawking a “fashion model diet,” young women in bright red were rollerskating to promote some other product, and several nearly naked activists painted with green scales were promoting a campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to protect endangered reptiles. Media coverage of the anti-sweatshop event was mostly limited to a dispatch by Agence France Presse and an entry in the Fashionista blog.

But the main problem wasn’t the other actions at Fashion Week: it was simply the fact that the news cycle had moved on. On the day of the press conference the headlines were dominated by the threat of a U.S. air strike on Syria, where the White House said 1,429 civilians were killed on Aug. 21 in a gas attack by government forces. For most people in the United States, the deaths in Syria had displaced any memory of the comparable number of deaths in the Bangladeshi factories that produce the clothes sold here.

Circumventing the News Cycle

Not everyone has forgotten Rana Plaza, of course. Akter and ILRF and USAS activists held two brief protests after the press conference, one outside Lincoln Center--closely watched by the New York police--and another at a Children’s Place outlet some 15 blocks up Broadway; the corporation had some of its clothes made at a Rana Plaza factory, but so far it hasn’t paid any compensation for the victims. “I’m going to put this on my Facebook page,” a well-dressed older woman said as she stopped to photograph the Children’s Place protest. ILRF director of organizing Liana Foxvog started to explain the labor situation in Bangladesh, but the woman cut her off. “I know,” she said. “It’s disgusting.”

Other passersby would pause to look at the protest. Most seemed to have forgotten about the April disaster—one of the worst industrial accidents in history—or maybe had never heard of it, although they were sympathetic when they learned the protest’s purpose.

“I didn't think about the garment workers who made the clothes I was wearing,” Ziff had remarked at the press conference when talking about her time modeling for Nautica. A visit to Bangladesh in the summer of 2012 was “eye-opening,” she said, and led her to work in the anti-sweatshop campaign.

Activists are now confronting the problem of how to open more eyes, and how to mobilize public support without having to rely on the media. Akter, for example, was stopping in New York on her way to the AFL-CIO’s Sept. 8-11 convention in Los Angeles. She expected to work with union leaders on strategies for the campaign to get U.S. companies to sign the fire and building safety accord.

At the press conference youth organizer Rishi Singh pointed out the importance of building direct links between low-wage workers here and in the Global South. Singh, who works with the Queens-based South Asian organization DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), described the situation of South Asian immigrant workers in New York. “These are the conditions we face here,” he said, “but we just need to look around” to see how much worse it is in places like Bangladesh. There’s a real potential for direct worker solidarity there, Singh indicated, adding: “The struggle of one is the struggle of all.”

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.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Walmart Workers Flash Mobm Raleigh, NC

September 5th, 2013, Raleigh, NC - As Walmart workers petition managers to reinstate employees who have been unfairly treated, a flash mob breaks out.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Who Really Benefits From Sweatshops?

"[L]abor costs typically constitute 1-3 percent for a garment produced in the developing world." -- Zahid Hussain

By David L. Wilson, MRZine
Sept. 12, 2013

Consumers are ultimately the ones responsible for dangerous conditions in garment assembly plants in the Global South, Hong Kong-based business executive Bruce Rockowitz told the New York Times recently. The problem is that improved safety would raise the price of clothing, according to Rockowitz, who heads Li & Fung Limited, a sourcing company that hooks up retailers like Macy's and Kohl's with suppliers in low-wage countries like Bangladesh. "So far," he said, "consumers have just not been willing to accept higher costs."

Rockowitz isn't alone in blaming consumers in Europe and the United States for sweatshop conditions in the apparel industry. The idea pervades popular culture.[...]

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Now They're All Dead": Threats of Assassination to Human Rights Advocates in Haiti

Mark Snyder, Beverly Bell and Alexis Erkert, Toward Freedom
August 21, 2013

"Those before you were strong. Now they're all dead. Stop what you are doing, or the same will happen to you."

Those were the words delivered to Frena Florvilus, Director of Education and Advocacy of the Haitian human rights organization Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), early on the morning of August 11 by one of four unidentified men who attempted to enter DOP's office. The threat echoed numerous others that have been leveled against the DOP office and its staff since they took on the case of a young man who died in police custody within hours of his April 15 arrest, his body left covered with bruises and wounds inflicted by a severe beating. DOP has also been targeted for its work to support displaced peoples who face violent eviction from their camps, by the government and private landowners who are determined to rid the country of camps. Never mind that the people, homeless since the January 2010 earthquake, have nowhere else to go. [...]

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Standoff in the strawberry fields

By David Bacon, AlJazeera America
August 19, 2013

In July, Washington berry pickers went on strike. A week after their return, farm owners brought in H2A guest workers

BURLINGTON, Wash. — Over a tense two-week period in July, at the peak of the summer harvest season, almost 250 workers at the $6.1 million Sakuma Brothers strawberry and blueberry farm — one of the largest in Washington state — went on strike twice. Workers fought with the farm’s owners over wages, overtime pay, alleged racist treatment and conditions in their housing camp. They won concessions but lost on most of their monetary demands. With few resources left, they returned to the fields.

Sakuma Brothers Farms could afford to play hardball because it had an ace in the hole: It had been certified to bring 160 new workers from Mexico under the restrictive H2A guest-worker program. And the lower wages mandated for guest workers under U.S. immigration law proved to be the limit not just for the H2A workers but also for all the other pickers at the company. [...]

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Grocery Boycott Resumes in Brooklyn

by David L. Wilson, Grassroots Solidarity
August 14, 2013

[This article is also available at: http://www.indypendent.org/2013/08/26/grocery-boycott-resumes-brooklyn]

“Welcome back,” community organizer Lucas Sánchez called out to some 35 demonstrators in front of a small supermarket in Brooklyn’s Kensington neighborhood the afternoon of August 10. “It’s as if we never left,” he added with a smile.

The Saturday rally, announced just two days before, marked the resumption of a consumer boycott at the Golden Farm grocery store in support of Latino produce workers currently in negotiations with the shop’s owner, Sonny Kim. Kensington residents and local labor rights activists started the boycott one year earlier, in August 2012, but suspended it last March at the urging of the workers’ union, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, in the hope that this would advance the contract talks.

“We lifted the boycott so Mr. Kim could negotiate in good faith,” Sánchez, who works for the advocacy organization New York Communities for Change (NYCC), told the group of supporters, which included the area’s City Council member, Brad Lander, and a Brooklyn state senator, Eric Adams. But after five months management is still refusing to budge on demands for higher pay, job security, and paid sick days, holidays and vacations, according to the union.

This time the consumer action will continue until the workers have won their contract, Occupy Kensington member Eleanor Rodgers announced as the crowd applauded. “Sonny Kim needs to understand that last time, when we suspended the boycott,” she said, “that was his last chance.”

The Golden Farm struggle may just involve a handful of workers in an out-of-the-way Brooklyn neighborhood, but speaker after speaker stressed that it was part of a large and growing movement of low-wage workers. “Forty-four grocery stores are organizing in Brooklyn,” Sánchez said. “Hundreds of car wash workers are organizing around the city, and thousands of fast food workers are organizing around the country. People are saying it’s time to rise up.”

For decades U.S. labor unions tended to view these workers as too difficult to organize: most are employed in small, isolated shops, and many are vulnerable to employer threats because of problems with their immigration status. Council member Lander commended the courage and dedication of the Golden Farm workers, immigrants who started organizing themselves in December 2010. Since then they have won a raise—to minimum wage—and a back-pay settlement; in September 2012 their efforts resulted in the National Labor Relations Board’s certification of Local 338 as their union.

The struggle gained special emotional resonance when 34-year-old Golden Farm worker and union supporter Félix Trinidad died of stomach cancer in July 2012; unable to get paid sick leave, he had continued to work 12-hour shifts while undergoing chemotherapy.

But Senator Adams emphasized that despite their admirable courage, low-wage workers need the sort of support the Golden Farm workers have been getting in Kensington.

Occupy Kensington’s Rodgers, who has lived in the neighborhood for six years, estimates that the earlier seven-month boycott cut Sonny Kim’s business by about 30%. Was she optimistic about prospects for restarting the campaign? “I’m not just optimistic, I’m absolutely certain we can do it,” she said. But she was less certain that they would win. For one thing, Rodgers suspects that Kim has been stalling as the September 20 anniversary of the union’s certification approaches. After that management can push for a decertification vote.

Kensington residents are mostly working-class or lower-middle-class. Many are immigrants, with no one ethnic or social group predominating: the awning at Golden Farm advertises “Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Turkish, Israeli, kosher, organic, gourmet food.” There’s plenty of sympathy for the Latino workers, who live in the community. But the supermarket’s low prices, variety of food types, and convenient location near the subway on Church Avenue make it attractive to consumers. As in many New York grocery stores, the cashiers, the workers that shoppers interact with most, are not Latino and are less likely to support the union.

Rodgers, herself an immigrant from Northern Ireland, says Kim has tried to play on potential divisions, depicting the boycott as the work of “outsiders.” At the rally she called for neighborhood people to staff the picket lines on weekend afternoons and in the evenings on weekdays. “We aren’t NYCC, we aren’t the union,” she insisted. “We live here.”

For all the difficulties they face, labor rights supporters were in good spirits as they started the first picket line of the renewed boycott. Drivers on Church Avenue regularly honked in support when they saw the picketers’ signs.

Laura Castro, a schoolteacher and one of the Kensington residents on the line, admitted that the neighborhood was polarized over the boycott but said she was hopeful that most people would back the workers. She’d observed a change in the political climate over the last few years, she explained. “It’s surprising how much feeling there is out in the community about depressed wages, about unions being dismantled. The big media aren’t telling us about this.”

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.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Viva la Huelga! The Agricultural Strike at Sakuma Brothers Farms and the Tradition of Oaxacan Resistance

By Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, MRzine
July 25, 2013

Strike Heats Up as Over 200 Immigrant Workers Are Threatened with Mass Firing

July 24, 2013

As workers walked past fields of strawberries and blueberries into a negotiation meeting this morning with Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. management, they were told to accept management's terms or lose their jobs. This threat comes amidst a heated strike of over 200 immigrant farm workers at the Burlington, WA farm which is just north of Seattle. It is the second strike the workers initiated in the last two weeks over a list of demands over wages, dignity, and respect.

The strike started after the firing of farm worker Federico Lopez on July 10th. Lopez and his coworkers believed he was targeted for bringing up grievances with his superiors. Some of the workers were listening to an interview of Rosalinda Guillen on a Spanish-language radio show on a local radio station. They decided that they wanted her to assist them with their struggle at Sakuma Brothers Farms. [...]

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hot and Crusty film featured in the New York Times

By Laura Gottesdiener, Waging Nonviolence
July 16, 2013

As the debate over immigration reform continues in Washington, the victory of one group of mostly unauthorized workers is now in the national spotlight — demonstrating a direct-action path that unauthorized workers across the country could adopt to win rights both at work and in broader society.

Robin Blotnick and Rachel Lears’ film “The Hand that Feeds” — featured today in the New York Times Op-Docs series — chronicles the year-long struggle of Mahoma López and his co-workers at Hot and Crusty, a bakery on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. [...]

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Watch the NY Times documentary:

Visit the documentary's website:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Immigration Reform: The View From Below

by David L. Wilson, Upside Down World
July 8, 2013

Washington’s latest effort at comprehensive immigration reform, S.744, sailed through the Senate on June 27 by a vote of 68 to 32. The “historic session” followed weeks of heavy media coverage. We learned about the maneuvers of the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight; about the counter-moves of the Tea Party faction; about the various deals cooked up by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the defense contractors, and the magnates of Silicon Valley. We learned about what all the major players thought about border security, the path to citizenship, the need for immigrants “to wait their turn in line,” and the importance of “fixing a broken system.” And now the media coverage is moving on to the legislative deal making in the House of Representatives.

As usual, the one thing the media aren’t covering is what the immigrants themselves think about immigration reform.

This was a central issue at a meeting that some 40 to 45 activists--some of them visiting New York from Mexico and Central America--held in the basement of a mid-Manhattan church on the evening of May 23.[...]

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sweatshops Don't Just Happen - They're a Policy

We see the result of these policies in the more than two million Mexicans who now work in maquiladoras assembling goods for the US market, the more than three million Bangladeshis who sew apparel for European and US retailers, and the millions more across the globe who either work in sweatshops or cross borders "illegally" to find jobs in the richer nations.

By David L. Wilson, Truthout
June 25, 2013

On May 5, The New York Times dedicated its "Sunday Dialogue" feature to letters about the factory collapse in Bangladesh that had killed more than 1,100 garment workers a week and a half earlier. The "dialogue" started with a letter from University of Michigan business school professor Jerry Davis, who apportioned blame for the disaster to "the owners of the building and the factories it contained, to the government of Bangladesh, to the retailers who sold the clothing," and to us. Through "[o]ur willingness to buy garments sewn under dangerous conditions," he wrote, we "create the demand that underwrites these tragedies."

There's a striking omission in Prof. Davis' list - the people whose policies make the sweatshop economy possible.[...]

Read the full article:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Interview with an Organizer for Batay Ouvriye (Workers Struggle)

By One Struggle
May 1, 2013

[Batay Ouvriye is the main labor group working in Haiti's assembly sector. They organized the assembly workers union in the northeastern city of Ouanaminthe, the union in the sector with a contract.]

One Struggle: Can you give me a brief description of what Batay Ouvriye* is and a little bit of the history of it?

Batay Ouvriye: Batay Ouvriye is part of a whole current that had roots in Europe and the United States where many of the resistance, many of the leftist people, or many of the progressive militants were exiled from the country. So we organized a kind of line against Duvalier1 which was not the classical front. It was a class line against Duvalier.

They called us sectarian much of the time, but we weren’t sectarian, it’s a line. And we participated with many of those people. But we didn’t enter an organizational front, you see? But if they had a demonstration we were always there.\\

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Immigrant Workers Are Organizing in New York -- With or Without Immigration Reform

Actions like this aren't unusual in New York City these days. Everywhere you look you see workers organizing: at supermarkets in Brooklyn, at restaurants and cafés in Manhattan, at carwashes in the Bronx. And over and over again this organizing is in the low-wage service industries that largely employ undocumented immigrants.

By David L. Wilson, MRZine
May 17, 2013

Some 50 to 60 union meat cutters and their supporters turned out on the afternoon of April 6 for a noisy protest against what they said was a lockout by Trade Fair, a chain of nine small supermarkets based in Queens, New York.

Standing in a picket line on a busy sidewalk outside a Trade Fair store in the Jackson Heights neighborhood, many wearing their white aprons, the workers explained that after a year without a contract, they held a brief strike the morning of March 13 over workplace abuses. When they tried to return to work, they said, Trade Fair CEO Farid ("Frank") Jaber responded by laying off all 100 or so meat cutters and hiring non-union replacements. [...]

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Wealth and Deprivation: Ready-made Garments Industry in Bangladesh

By Anu Muhammad, One Struggle
May 1, 2013

Anu Muhammad is with the Department of Economics, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. This is a brief excerpt of his article, reprinted with permission. For the full text please see meghbarta.info

Bangladesh’s ready-made garments industry has taken the low road to competitive advantage. Local capitalists, the big retailers and western governments are reaping the benefits of the super-exploitation and repression of the (mostly women) workers. Inevitably, the resistance of the victims is taking shape. The annual turnover of the readymade garments (RMG) industry in Bangladesh is now almost $9 billion; it employs around 3.5 million workers, more than 80% of them women. RMG account for nearly 80% of the country’s export earnings and are the second largest source of the nation’s foreign currency after remittances.

According to official estimates, nearly 4,500 garment factories are now in operation in the country, some of these factories work as subcontractors of the bigger ones. Over 70% of these factories are located in and around Dhaka, the capital city. The rapid expansion of this export-oriented industry has given the industrial sector a new landscape. The RMG industry has also created a huge labour force, mostly women, with lower wages and severe regimentation. Many workers were tortured and killed for their attempts to organise struggles for rights and decent levels of living. [...]

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mrs. Clinton Can Have Her Factories: a Haitian Sweatshop Worker Speaks

By Beverly Bell, Other Worlds
April 30, 2013

Marjorie Valcelat ran an embroidery machine in a factory from 2005 to 2008. She says the experience made her so sick and weak that she’s not felt able to work since then.

I had three children I had to take care of; their father had left. And since I hadn’t had enough schooling, I didn’t have the skills to do much. So I said to myself, “I’m going to work at a factory.” When I got there, they showed me how to run the machines to embroider slips and nightshirts. I spent a month training, but during that time they didn’t pay me; I had to pay them for the training.

If I had met the quota, every two weeks I would have made 1,250 gourdes [US$30.00]. Yep, that’s it. But I couldn’t meet the quota, because embroidery wasn’t my specialty. I did what I could. Sometimes they paid me 500 gourdes [US$12.50], sometimes 400 gourdes [US $9.50], every two weeks. I needed to support my family and I couldn’t survive. [...]

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Hard Day’s Labor for $4.76: The Offshore Assembly Industry in Haiti

By Beverly Bell and Alexis Erkert, Other Worlds
April 25, 2013

As we mourn the deaths of nearly 200 people in yesterday’s garment factory collapse outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, we publish this article about the very issue of garment labor exploitation on the other side of the world. Economist Paul Collier's 2009 report "Haiti: From Natural Catastrophe to Economic Security" recommends for Haiti the same model that in Bangladesh has resulted in a race towards lower pay, disastrous working conditions, and the deaths of more than 800 garment workers since 2006. This article begins to explore the implications of sweatshop labor as a model for development.

“Haiti offers a marvelous opportunity for American investment. The run-of-the-mill Haitian is handy, easily directed, and gives a hard day’s labor for 20 cents, while in Panama the same day’s work costs $3,” wrote Financial America in 1926.[i] That may be the most honest portrayal of the offshore industry in Haiti to date. Today, the US, the UN, multilateral lending institutions, corporate investors, and others are more creative in their characterizations. They spin Haiti’s high-profit labor as being in the interest of the laborer, and as a major vehicle for what they call “development.”

In the export assembly sector, the minimum wage is 200 gourdes, or US$4.76, a day. According to the Associated Press, the minimum wage in February 2010 was “approximately the same as the minimum wage in 1984 and worth less than half its previous purchasing power.” Three years later, the wage has only been raised by 75 gourdes (US$1.79). [...]

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Labor, Worker Rights Activists Condemn Attacks on Workers' Rights in Mexico

Mexican Labor News &Analysis
March 2013.

Unions and worker rights supporters took action around the world as part of a week of action running from February 18 to 24, 2013. The Days of Action in solidarity with the independent trade unions in Mexico focused on the need to roll back regressive labor law changes that were approved in the fall of 2012, to support workers at key conflicts, and to end the persecution, arrests and criminalization of struggles of democratic trade unions and the workers they represent.

Another key demand was that the Mexican government take action in accordance with the International Labor Organization recommendations to address the pervasive protection contract system that is used by employers, company-friendly “unions,” and the government to avoid representation by democratic unions and to deny workers their basic rights.

In the United States where comprehensive immigration reform is under consideration, unions also called on the Mexican government to reaffirm its commitment to protect the rights of immigrant workers in the United States while also ensuring that the rights of all workers are also rigorously protected and enforced in Mexico. [...]

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Haitian Sweatshops: Made in the U.S.A.

By Fran Quigley, Working in These Times
March 21, 2013

When the shift changes in the late afternoon, thousands of Haitians stream out from under an arched entrance labeled “Parc Industriel Metropolitain” toward the traffic-choked streets of Port-au-Prince. Among them is David, a thin 32-year-old man in a short-sleeve dress shirt and slacks, who works at one of the many garment assembly factories here, sewing pants for export to the United States. Through a Creole interpreter, David says the way he and his co-workers are treated is pa bon—not right.

Yet a lot of high-powered people with a stake in Haitian affairs think jobs like David’s represent the answer to Haiti’s problems. The U.S. State Department, the Inter-American Development Bank and the government of Haitian President Michel Martelly recently pulled together more than $300 million in post-earthquake subsidies to create another industrial park just like this one but in northeast Haiti, with Korean textile manufacturer Sae-A as its anchor tenant. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton both spoke at the park’s opening ceremony, hailing it as the centerpiece of U.S. efforts to help Haiti recover from the devastating 2010 quake. Secretary Clinton echoed President Martelly’s mantra that Haiti “is open for business.” [...]

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day Laborers Defend Their Right to Public Space in Court

By Michelle Chen, Working in These Times
March 6, 2013

Looking to hire someone for a little landscaping work or a construction job? There might be a local agency that can offer free security services to ensure that workers will work as hard as possible for as little as you’re willing to pay: the local police department.

Across the country, the undocumented day laborers who build, paint and pave many communities are locked into a low-wage regime that is de facto enforced by state power, which can threaten to round them up just for trying to work--in the name of protecting "public safety."

Arizona was once a model for this form of anti-worker bullying. But a federal court has just struck down one of the harshest provisions of the infamous anti-immigrant law known as SB 1070, which enabled police to arrest people for soliciting work in public. [...]

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Caracol Industrial Park: Worth the risk?

Ayiti Kale Je/Haiti Grassroots Watch
Thursday, March 7, 2013

Caracol and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 7 March 2013 – Last October, officials from the Haitian government and from a number the so-called “friends of Haiti” governments and institutions saw their dream turned into reality. Finally, earthquake reconstruction progress worth celebrating. The inauguration of the giant Caracol Industrial Park which, according to its backers, will someday host 20,000 or maybe even 65,000 jobs.

President Michel Martelly was there, as were Haitian and foreign diplomats, the Clinton power couple, millionaires and actors, all present to celebrate the government’s clarion call: “Haiti is open for business.”†

“We supported the Caracol Park because we knew it was going to be an extraordinary thing for the north. The park will allow us to ‘decentralize’ the country and create a northern ‘pole.’ It will also give people jobs in an extraordinary way!” then-Minister of Social Affairs Josépha Raymond Gauthier told Haiti Grassroots Watch.

But a two-month investigation by Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) discovered that the number of jobs in the north is not yet “extraordinary,” and that many other promises have not yet been kept.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Haiti's Duvalier Needs Company in the Dock

The media, and even human rights groups and many progressives, seemed to miss an important point: Duvalier, like Ríos Montt and the Argentine generals, had accomplices and enablers who are still free to walk the streets of New York and Washington.

By David Wilson, Truthout
March 21, 2013

Human Rights Watch spokesperson Reed Brody called it "historic": on February 28 former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was forced to appear before a Port-au-Prince appeals court to discuss criminal complaints filed against him by victims of his 1971-1986 regime. The occasion was significant regardless of the outcome of the now ongoing trial of Duvalier. "Whatever happens next," Brody said, "Haitians will remember the image of their former dictator having to answer questions about the repression carried out under his rule."

This was only the latest in a number of encouraging developments involving former dictators forced to confront their crimes from the 1970s and 1980s. Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala's military ruler from 1982 to 1983, faces charges in a trial that began on March 19 for the deaths of indigenous campesino civilians, while dozens of former Argentine officials are in jail or on trial for the "disappearances" of as many as 30,000 suspected leftists in the 1976-1983 "dirty war." [...]

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Beaten Haitian Worker Continues Fight for $7-Per-Day Wage

By Dan Schneider, In These Times
March 5, 2013

When Haiti's minimum wage rose to 300 Gourds ($7 US) per day in October 2012, workers across the nation were relieved. The money was certainly not a living wage, but it was far better than the paltry 70 gourdes-per-day standard established in 2003. Despite intense resistance from the U.S. government and apparel companies like Hanes and Fruit of the Loom—who waged a long battle to stave off an increase passed by the Haitian Parliament in 2009 and keep the minimum wage at $3 day for the textile industry—the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere was set to take a step in the right direction for labor rights.

Or so it seemed. Months after the increase took effect, many Haitian factory owners are still refusing to pay their employees the new minimum wage (An actual living wage in Haiti would be much higher still—about $29 per day, according to an estimate by the Workers' Rights Consortium). With a weak national government and an economy largely dependent on U.S. contracts and favorable trade arrangements, workers in the apparel industry—Haiti’s largest exporter—are struggling just to attain their legally-mandated wage. [...]

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Adidas Sweatshop Workers Speak Out! Worker Tour visits NYC on Feb 4

Hear from garment workers who sew apparel in Honduran and Haitian factories owned and contracted by Gildan Activewear, a Montreal-based apparel company that recently became the largest supplier in the Western hemisphere to sportswear giant Adidas.

Workers will be speaking out across New York to encourage the State to uphold its commitment to not subsidize sweatshops, and in the backdrop of another mounting campaign against Adidas. Six universities have already committed to end their apparel contracts with Adidas over the brand's refusal to pay $1.8 million in legally-owed severance pay to 2,800 former Indonesian workers at a factory called PT Kizone, which shut down unexpectedly over a year and half ago.

Come, listen, and take action!

Monday, February 4th – Three opportunities to hear from the workers!
12- 1 p.m. @ Fashion Institute of Technology, Katie Murphy Amphitheater–enter FIT at the northwest corner of Seventh Ave and 27th Street
4:00 – 5:30 p.m. @ St. Joseph’s College, 245 Clinton Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
8:00 – 9:00 p.m. @ NYU, Kimmel 406 (60 Washington Square South)


Telemarque Pierre
is a factory worker and union leader at Premium Apparel, in Port Au Prince, Haiti. The factory produces t-shirts for Gildan, a Canadian company. Gildan clothing is sold in university bookstores, worn by New York state police, and at Walmart. Today at Gildan's four Haitian contract suppliers (Genesis, Premium, Palm and SISA), workers continue to face prohibition of union activities in the factories and arbitrary firings. Moreover, several of Gildan’s Haitian suppliers refuse to pay the new mandatory minimum wage of less than $6/day.

Yannick Etienne is the director of the Haitian workers’ rights organization Batay Ouvriye. Batay Ouvriye brings together independent, democratic unions and worker rights organizations, and educates, empowers and organizes wage-workers, self-employed workers as well as the unemployed for the defense of their rights.

Raquel Navarro is a garment worker and union leader at STAR, an Adidas supplier factory in Honduras owned by Gildan. Gildan is Adidas’ largest supplier in the western hemisphere. After Raquel and her colleagues formed a union in November 2007, a bloody struggle ensued, including the illegal firing of 55 union activists. Still today, mass layoffs continue. Recently, Gildan’s vague plans to close factories provoked a dangerously hostile atmosphere towards union leaders where Gildan management allowed death threats against union leaders to transpire.

In addition, representatives from Labor-Religion Coalition of New York, SweatFree Communities / International Labor Rights Forum, and United Students Against Sweatshops will share information about local actions that people can take in support of Adidas/Gildan workers.

Additional events in New York State:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
4:00-5:30 p.m.: Presentation at Syracuse University, New York
6:00-8:30 p.m.: Dinner and Presentation at All Saints Church

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
4:00-5:30 p.m.: Presentation at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
7:00-8:30 p.m.: Presentation at First Presbyterian Church, followed by dessert reception hosted by Labor-Religion Coalition of the Finger Lakes (315 North Cayuga Street, Ithaca, NY, by DeWitt

Thursday, February 7, 2013
8:30 a.m.: Breakfast and Presentation at First Unitarian Church (220 South Winton Road, Rochester, NY 14610)
12:15-1:30 p.m. Presentation at St. John Fisher College, Basil 135
6:30-8:00 p.m.: Presentation at University of Buffalo, Natural Sciences Complex 215, NY

Friday, February 8, 2013
11:00 a.m.: Press conference at New York State Capitol, Albany
12:30-1:30 p.m.: Presentation at Siena College, Key Auditorium, Roger Bacon 202
3:00-4:30 p.m.: Presentation at SUNY Albany, Humanities 354
7:00-8:30 p.m.: Presentation at Pastoral Center, sponsored by Peace and Justice Commission of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Albany

For more information:
Joy Perkett, Faith Organizer/ Campaign Coordinator
Tele; 518/ 213-6000 ext. 6348

For background on Haitian sweatshops:
In $7-Per-Day Fight, Haitian Workers Call for North American Support
What Are 'Peacekeepers' Doing in a Haitian Industrial Park?
Some Key Players in Haiti’s Assembly Sector

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Phoenix Project... born again?

Haiti Grassroots Watch
January 21, 2013

Port-au-Prince, HAITI, 22 January 2013 – For more than two years, teams of US and Haitian businesspeople have been working on massive public-private business deal: a factory that would transform garbage from the capital into electricity, a resource so rare in Haiti, only 30 percent of the population has access.

But the project involves a technology so potentially dangerous, it has been outlawed in some cities and countries. It would also commit the state to a 30-year contract.

The project emerged from the ruins of the January 12 2010. US businesspeople said they came up with the idea because they wanted to take part in the reconstruction but “do more than make a profit.” [...]

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

What Are 'Peacekeepers' Doing in a Haitian Industrial Park?

By David L. Wilson, Upside Down World
January 14, 2013

The big industrial park near the international airport north of Port-au-Prince actually does look like a nature park. Thousands of Haitians may be inside the complex’s 47 buildings hurriedly stitching tens of thousands of T-shirts for the North American market, but the wide, tree-lined streets between the factory seem peaceful when you drive along them in mid-morning on a workday. It’s as if you were in a gated community in the United States, a thousand miles from the noisy chaos of the Haitian capital.

As in many gated communities, there’s a security force at the Metropolitan Industrial Park, which is identified in Haiti as SONAPI, the acronym for Société Nationale des Parcs Industriels, the semi-governmental agency that runs the park. Haitian guards check you out before they allow you to enter, and once inside you find the grounds patrolled by a white car with a big “UN” painted in black on the side. [...]

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

In $7-Per-Day Fight, Haitian Workers Call for North American Support

By David Wilson, Working In These Times
January 9, 2013
Haitian workers rally for a living wage outside an industrial park on October 8, 2012. (Marty Goodman/Socialist Action)

The small workers’ center in Port-au-Prince’s Delmas district was hot and the electricity had gone out, but about three dozen workers from the city’s apparel plants were willing to sit in the dark and the heat for nearly two hours after work one evening in early October to tell a group of U.S. activists about the struggle for better wages in Haiti.

“We have to pay for our transportation,” said “Jean” (not his real name), an employee at the Multiwear Assembly plant in the big industrial park near the airport. “We can’t do anything with our salary. We start work at 6 a.m. and finish at 5 p.m. The quota is huge. We don’t even have time to eat because we can’t meet the quota.”

Protests had broken out at the end of September and the beginning of October, the workers said, after factory owners stepped up production quotas to circumvent an increase in the minimum wage that went into effect on October 1. [...]

Read the full article:

Haiti Three Years After the Earthquake: NYC, 1/12/13

For immediate release

Contact: Haiti Anti-Sweatshop Committee, 212-781-5157 • 347-792-7091

Haiti Three Years After the Earthquake: A Labor Perspective

When: Saturday, January 12, 2013, 6 pm
Where: CWA Local 1180, 6 Harrison Street, basement, Manhattan (between Hudson Street and Greenwich Street, 1 to Franklin St or A, C, E, 2 or 3 to Chambers St)
What: Forum on Haiti three years after the earthquake

New York, Jan. 10—Three New York-based activist journalists are marking the third anniversary of Haiti's 2010 earthquake this Saturday with a report-back on their visits to the country last October. The forum, held at a union hall in Lower Manhattan, will focus on grassroots organizing by Haitians, especially in the garment assembly plants.

The anniversary has brought a run of articles in the media here. While the coverage notes the failure of international aid to help Haiti “build back better,” it also claims there has been “some progress,” in the words of a New York Times editorial. The paper’s example is “a new industrial park north of Port-au-Prince, the capital, providing the first 1,300 of what are supposed to be many thousands of manufacturing jobs.”

The three New Yorkers got a very different perspective in talks with Haitian assembly workers, who are currently struggling just to be paid the new legal minimum wage of $7 a day. They are looking for grassroots solidarity from the United States, they said--not projects like the new industrial park, built largely with $124 million in U.S. tax money170 miles from the earthquake zone, and mostly benefiting multinationals like Walmart..

The forum will include a photo projection from photojournalist Tony Savino and talks by David Wilson and Marty Goodman. Savino, who visited the northern city of Ouanaminthe in October, has photographed Haiti regularly for a quarter century; a sample of his work can be found at http://www.tonysavino.com/. Wilson was in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck, and has written about that experience and about the economics of the assembly sector. Goodman, a retired transit worker and former member of the TWU Local 100 Executive Board, began covering Haiti in 1986 with reports on the overthrow of Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc”); an article on his most recent trip appeared in the November Socialist Action.

The forum has been organized by the Haiti Anti-Sweatshop Committee and is endorsed by One Struggle (NY) and the Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network. The presenters are available for interviews. For more information, call 212-781-5157 or 347-792-7091, or visit http://www.facebook.com/events/512833625416529/


Friday, January 4, 2013

Some Key Players in Haiti’s Assembly Sector

SONAPI (Société Nationale des Parcs Industriels): An autonomous agency created in 1981 by then-president Jean-Claude Duvalier to oversee the country’s industrial parks. It maintains the 122-acre Parc Industriel Métropolitain in Port-au-Prince and the new 617-acre Parc Industriel de Caracol in the north. SONAPI’s president, appointed in August 2012, is Georges Sassine, former president of the country’s industrial business association (Association Des Industries d’Haïti, ADIH). Emails: info@sonapi.ht,  parcindustriel@yahoo.com.

CODEVI (Compagnie de Développement Industriel SA): A free trade zone in Ouanaminthe, where the Dominican company Grupo M produces various types of apparel for VF, Levi's, Hanesbrands, and Nautica. This is the only apparel assembly facility with a union contract. The manager is Joseph Blumberg. Number of employees: 4,650. Email: jblumberg@grupom.com.do

Genesis S.A: An apparel assembly plant located near the SONAPI park in Port-au-Prince. It supplies T-shirts to Gildan Activewear and Hanesbrands. The president is Gerald Apaid, from a wealthy Haitian family whose best-known member is Haitian American industrialist André Apaid, owner of the Alpha plant. Number of employees: 1,275. Email: gapaid33166@yahoo.com

Multiwear Assembly: An apparel assembly plant occupying three buildings inside the SONAPI park. It supplies various types of apparel to Hanesbrands. The president is U.S. entrepreneur Richard Coles. Number of employees: 1,980. Email: rcoles@multitex.com, fcaoudal@multitex.com

One World Apparel: An apparel assembly plant located near the SONAPI park. It supplies wovens, scrubs, and uniforms to Superior Uniforms, G&K Uniforms, and Calhoun Clothing. Its president is Charles-Henri Baker, a perennial presidential candidate and brother-in-law of André and Gerald Apaid. Number of employees: 800. Email: chbaker@pbapparel.com  

Palm Apparel: An apparel assembly plant located in Carrefour, a few miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. The plant collapsed during the 2010 earthquake, killing at least 500 workers. Palm Apparel supplies knits and T-shirts to Gildan. Its president is Alain Villard. Number of employees: 900. Email: alain.villard@palmapparel.com

Premium Apparel: An apparel assembly plant located near the SONAPI park. It supplies knits and T-shirts to Gildan. The president is Jean-Robert Godefroy. Number of employees: 1,250. Email: bob@agacorp.com

Sae-A Trading: A giant South Korean apparel firm that is the lead tenant in the new Parc Industriel de Caracol. On Oct. 15, a week before the park officially opened, Sae-A shipped 76,000 T-shirts to the US retailing giant Walmart. The company claims it will employ 20,000 workers.