Beginning on May 19, thousands of textile sweatshop workers in Haiti walked off the job or laid down inside their textile assembly plants to protest their starvation wages. The workers are demanding a raise from $4.67 per day to $12.47 per day, a raise not tied to increased production quotas for workers. Many bosses do not pay the minimum wage. Workers are also demanding meal, transportation, and housing subsidies, which consume much of the worker’s miserable income.
recent wave of protest subsided by May 29, with marches estimated at
up to 18,000, but the struggle is far from over.
say the workers’ upsurge has been partly spontaneous and partly
organized by PLASIT–BO, a coalition of the independent textile
unions throughout Haiti that are affiliated with Batay Ouvriye,
including SOTA-BO in Port Au Prince; SOKOWA in Ouanaminthe; and SOAGH
in Caracol. Some 40 union organizers have been fired in the
course of the upsurge.
Sassine, president of the Association of Industries of Haiti
(ADIH), despite the daily firing of union organizers, called
strikers “outlaws.” The ADIH was forced to suspend
business on May 19, 20, and 22.
struck in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince, including at the big
SONAPI industrial park. Thousands of workers marched into the capital
on May 19 from Carrefour, a town a few miles away. Textile workers
also walked off the job in the northern towns of Ouanaminthe
are about 40,000 workers in textile assembly plants, run by
international apparel companies and their outsourced partners in
Haiti. Many plants in Ouanaminthe are owned by Dominican capitalists,
whose anti-Haitian racism is notorious.
anger was brought to a boiling point by a new 13% government tax on
all workers, supposedly to pay for basic social services—services
not received by the masses and often simply pocketed by corrupt
officials. The new tax on workers was on top of a hike in gasoline
taxes, imposed by the current U.S./World Bank puppet, Haitian
President Jovenel Moise. The gas tax increase was a deal between
the government and corrupt unions.
gas tax ripple effect, besides its immediate impact on small taxi and
passenger vehicles called tap-taps, will be on all workers and
Haiti’s vast unemployed, which stands at 40.6% (2010 estimate), 50%
for women. Many jobs are informal, only marginally better than
unemployment. Added to that is a punishing inflation rate of 12.4%
(2016 est.) on consumer prices.
54% live in poverty. Roughly 2.5 million Haitians, out of a
population of 11 million, live in extreme poverty
(below $1.25 per day), mostly in rural areas.
response to protests, the Haitian police fired gas, shot rubber
bullets, and sprayed protesters with water containing a rash-inducing
chemical. Of the rubber bullet victims, at least one woman was
severely injured, knocked down when struck in the head.
blocked the doors at one factory to not let workers leave work and
join the protests. At the Sewing International factory, many workers
stopped work to join the demonstration, but were locked inside by
management. Eventually, they were able to join the march.
Haitian cops are backed by a U.S./UN occupation force called
MINUSTAH, which has not interfered directly in the recent protests—so
far. The imperialist occupation began under Bill Clinton in
1994, with the support of “socialist” Congressman Bernie Sanders,
and was renewed under George W. Bush in 2004. It is there to
implement the austerity policies of the U.S.-dominated World Bank and
crush possible revolution.
imperialism has been central to the present crisis. Memos obtained by
Wikileaks revealed that the U.S. State Department during the years
2003 to 2010 worked with Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and Levi’s
to block an increase in the minimum wage in the hemisphere’s
poorest nation. Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, pressured the
Haitian government to block raising the minimum wage from $1.75
a day to $5 a day, a demand of mass mobilizations. The bosses wanted
$3 a day and got it, thanks to Hillary Clinton.
137 of the Haitian Labor Code, passed under the Baby Doc Duvalier
dictatorship, calls for an adjustment to the minimum salary every
time the cost of living index registers an increase of more than 10%,
often much higher. No Haitian government, be it a dictatorship or the
elected capitalist government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,
has implemented the Labor Code.
of the TPS?
May 22, some 58,000 Haitians who fled to the U.S. after the 2010
earthquake, received a six-month extension of Temporary Protected
Status (TPS), granted for natural disasters or war. The Trump
administration had threatened cancellation of TPS for Haitians. The
reversal came after Haitian advocates organized protests and received
favorable newspaper editorials and statements from politicians.
leaked Department of Homeland Security (DHS) e-mails reveal racist
efforts to demonize Haitians as criminals and welfare cheats to
justify termination of TPS. The extension granted by the DHS falls
short of the usual 18-month extension. DHS Secretary John F.
Kelly’s announcement stressed that this is likely the last
extension and that TPS holders should “attain travel documents”
for a return to Haiti. Haitian TPS will be reviewed again in January
2018. The announcement said conditions in Haiti had greatly
improved—a boldfaced lie!
DHS’ assertions were challenged by the Institute for Justice
and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). The 2010 earthquake killed as many as
200,000 people and destroyed much of its infrastructure. A post-
earthquake cholera epidemic killed over 9500 Haitians and sickened
over 800,000 people after the UN’s Nepalese contingent
contemptuously dumped human wastes into a river used by Haitians for
drinking and bathing.
UN stonewalled blame for the epidemic until August 2016, despite
scientific studies proving UN culpability (see SA Sept. 2016).
Moreover, last October, the most powerful hurricane in 52 years,
hurricane Matthew, wiped out crops, and livestock, and was the cause
of a food and potable water shortage in Haiti’s southwest.
DHS statement also stated: “96% of people displaced by the
earthquake and living in internally displaced person camps have left
those camps … 98% of these camps have closed.”
Many were reclassified as “permanent housing,” because residents
added to their makeshift shanties. In addition, many were driven away
by landlords. Nevertheless, an estimated 50,000 still live in
unsanitary, unsafe tent cities—seven years after the earthquake!
by Dominican Republic
the racist Dominican government has continued its practice of
expelling migrant Haitian workers and Dominicans of Haitian origin.
Many have fled the Dominican Republic out of fear of expulsion or
racist attacks. According to the International Organization for
Migration (IOM), an organization linked to the UN since 2016, about
111,400 people, or 92,000 households, have crossed the
Haitian-Dominican border since July 2015.
Marc Desmangles of the Zile Foundation, a binational organization
working on the Haitian-Dominican relationship, states that returnee
Haitian migrants who remained for many months to cross the Haitian
border from Anse to Pitres, “were accused of bringing the cholera
from the bateys (plantation work camps) have been severely affected.
Thus, they are afraid of being caught up and repatriated under
inhuman conditions at any time. It is the same for workers in
construction and hotels.”
cops will seize your identity papers and then tear them apart before
your eyes, said Isidro Bellique Delmas, a member of the Reconoci.do
movement, an independent national civic network composed mainly of
Dominicans of Haitian origin who promote human rights. Delmas, 28,
was able to find his documents of identity only after at least eight
years of struggle.
1000 Dominican troops will join 1500 soldiers regularly stationed
along the border, it was announced May 3. Border “security” was
enhanced by U.S. advisors. Dominican spokespersons have cited US
deportations as an example to follow.
2013, the Dominican government targeted Dominicans of Haitian descent
with a racist court decision, known as “La
an immigration ruling that stripped citizenship rights from more than
200,000 individuals whose families had migrated to the DR since 1929.
So far, the government has deported tens of thousands to Haiti, even
though many are not Haitian citizens. Many have never even been to
Haiti or speak Haitian “Kreyol.” More than 100,000 have crossed
into Haiti as the result of the threat of deportation and/or mob
Rights Watch called upon Dominican authorities “to halt expulsions
of denationalized Dominicans, to promptly restore their citizenship,
and to respect their right to a nationality.” Amnesty International
also called for an end to deportations.
decades, Haitians were brought to the DR by corrupt politicians on
both sides of the Haiti/DR border to work in sugar cane fields under
conditions called “modern day slavery.” Today, Dominican-Haitians
also work in the service sectors, where they face discrimination. The
Dominican government, a staunch anti-communist U.S. ally, has
historically promoted “anti-Haitianism.” Everything
Haitian—whether skin color, culture, or religion—is degraded.
policy is to blame for the misery of the Haitian masses. Their
conditions cry out for international solidarity.
>> The article above was written by Marty Goodman, and is reprinted from Socialist Action.