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.\\

Read the full article:

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. [...]

Read the full article:

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

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. [...]

Read the full article:

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. [...]

Read the full article:

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). [...]

Read the full article: