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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