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Message-Id: <199708092320.SAA19816@mailhub.cns.ksu.edu>
Sender: owner-imap@chumbly.math.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 8 Aug 97 13:15:25 CDT
From: Haiti Progres <haiticom@blythe.org>
Organization: Haiti Progres
Subject: This Week in Haiti 15:20 8/6/97
Article: 15940

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit

Anti-Union Actions

From Haiti Progress, This Week in Haiti, Vol. 15, no. 20
August 6-12 1997

(HIB) Port-au-Prince, July 21 - Men and women workers today denounced illegal conditions, slave-level wages and especially repression and maneuvers against their efforts to organize.

A worker from one of the Port-au-Prince assembly factories began by saying "this is not a classic press conference that you tape and then you use two or three little extracts." She told the journalists that they could work with workers to denounce the crisis the dominant classes have forced Haiti into.

"They say they are restoring the 'authority of the state'... but we should understand what state and in the interest of who and with the help of whom," she said. "We organized this session to show journalists the reality of workers... and to show that it is the same repressive state, the same arbitrary state, the same anti- people state, the same corrupt state being restored, in the interest of the big bourgeois and landowners, under the imperialists' orders, in the framework of an occupation."

The woman also distributed an announcement by Batay Ouvriye, which works with workers organizations and which hosted the press conference. It announced that the US company that sends Disney clothing pieces to nine factories here for assembly, H.H. Cutler, is planning to leave Haiti and go to China and Indonesia as a result of the Haitian workers' struggles. The move is typical of "the imperialist bourgeoisie's exploitation of workers in dominated countries with the complicity of the governments in those countries," Batay said, and called for international solidarity.

Repression in North

But it is not only foreign companies reacting to Haitian workers' efforts: Men and women from Etablissement Novella denounced anti- union repression in Cap-Haitien, not only from their boss but also from the Ministry of Social Affairs [see Haiti Info, v.4 #25, v.5 #12]. Eveque St. Louis remains without his job, and Novella closed for the summer without paying any vacation pay.

The situation deteriorated on June 24, when about a dozen Novella workers went to the Social Affairs office for an appointment with the local representative, Walky Lamour. Lamour hid in his closet, they said, and they were told he was out. As some of them left, they were met at the door by thugs who harassed them, asked them why they kept bothering Lamour, and said they should "drop the worker issue right now!" When they threatened the women, one of the men stepped in. They began to viciously beat him, kicked him and hit him with rocks. The workers said Lamour organized the incident to try to intimidate them.

A worker from Bloc Laroche, also in Cap-Haitien, which makes cement blocks and has a food warehouse, said 19 workers, all members of the new union there, have been told their contracts will be "renegotiated" in August.

"He is playing a game with us," said the worker, who is convinced they will be fired or laid off.

When they started to organize, "The boss said, 'Pal, if you came for a raise, don't even bother to ask. If you feel 36 gourdes is not enough, just leave, because you are not getting any raise around here," the worker said, but they continued and got a raise from 36 to 45 gourdes a day. However, all their other demands, all rights guaranteed them in the Code du Travail, have not been met.

Agricultural Workers Arrested

Day workers around St. Michel de l'Attalaye trying to organize a union have been met with fierce repression. Working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m, they earn 10 gourdes (about US$0.60), one said.

"We decided to form a union, and a series of landowners and a local official... started saying that they were going to arrest us because there was a leaflet in the street and they said we are the ones who did it," he said.

On June 4, after one member asked the justice system to intervene in a dispute with a landowner, a thug attacked him and then a CASEC member "arrested" him and four other members, locking them in an unoccupied building. The others mobilized because "they are our brothers!" the worker explained, and three of them were released. Two remain in the illegal "jail," he said.