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Date: Thu, 2 Oct 97 09:41:53 CDT
From: Mike Rhodes <clr2@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Conyers calls for Haiti solidarity
Article: 19072

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[This alert comes from Witness for Peace, 110 Maryland Avenue, NE #304, Washington, DC 20002; tel: 202/544-0781; fax: 202/544-1187; e- mail: witness@w4peace.org; web-site: http://www.w4peace.org/WFP]

Conyers calls for Haiti solidarity

Labor Alerts/Labor News, 2 October 1997

US Representative John Conyers (D-MI) has authored the following Dear Colleague letter to the Walt Disney Company regarding the decision of the H.H Cutler Company to relocate its operations from Haiti to China. The intent of the letter is to convey to Disney the importance of insisting that H.H. Cutler, one of its primary contractors in Haiti, both maintain its investments in Haiti and respect basic worker rights.

ACTION: Call your Representative to ask that he/she co-sign this letter Colleague letter. We hope that the more signatures it has the greater impression it will have on the Disney Company. The circulation of this Dear Colleague Letter is also a good way to raise awareness in Congress about the broad issue of sweatshops, particulary as the National Day of Conscience to Stop Sweatshops and Child Labor (October 4) approaches. Please call soon -- the letter will only be open for signatures for another week or so. If you call before Friday, October 3rd, ask them to attend the briefing on Disney and Haiti described below.

Call 202-224-3121 or toll free 888-723-5246 to get the Capitol Switchboard. If you are not sure who your Representative is call your local public library or check the following web site:


Ask to speak to the Legislative Aide who would handle Haiti issues or labor. Leave that aide a message to contact Rep. Conyers's office to sign on to the letter.

This is the Dear Colleague Letter, followed by the letter to Disney:

September 26, 1997


Briefing for the National Day of Conscience on Friday, October 3 with Haitian Labor Leader Yannick Etienne

Dear Colleague:

Last year we were all shocked to learn about the horrible conditions that workers endured in Haitian factories subcontracted to make products for American companies. This year the tables took an unfortunate twist as some of these companies announced that they would rather move production elsewhere than provide a minimal standard of decency for their employees. I believe we need to send a strong message that workers everywhere are entitled to decent conditions, and that this reflects a new international consensus both in the political sphere and increasingly among businesses. Please consider signing the letter on the reverse that asks H.H. Cutler, a Disney subcontractor, to keep its production in Haiti.

To honor the National Day of Conscience that kicks off a national campaign to end child labor and sweatshop abuse, I will be hosting Yannick Etienne, one of Haiti's leading labor organizers who will talk about working conditions in factories in Haiti. This staff briefing will take place Friday, October 3, from 11:00 - 12:30 in room 2226 of the Rayburn building. Ms. Etienne's tour is being organized by Witness for Peace, a faith-based group that has monitored human rights in Latin American and the Caribbean since 1983 and organized delegations to the region to observe the effects of U.S. policies.

Batay Ouvriye, which means Worker's Struggle, is an association of unions that defends the right to organize, educates workers on the labor laws, and protests violations of worker's rights. They have lobbied parliament to change Haiti's antiquated labor code, and most notably brought attention to violations of minimum wage laws and worker conditions in American-owned factories.

I have traveled to Haiti many times, including twice this summer. I believe Haiti is at an important crossroads and that foreign investment will be critical to this country's economic recovery. However, we must promote sustainable development that for economic, political and moral reasons does not tolerate exploitation. If you have any questions or would like to sign on to the letter, please contact Mr. Carl LeVan of my staff at 225-5126.

John Conyers, Jr.
Member of Congress

October ___, 1997

Michael Eisner, CEO
Walt Disney Company
South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521

Dear Mr. Eisner:

We are writing to express our disappointment that the H.H. Cutler Company, one of the fourteen factories producing clothing for Disney, has decided to leave Haiti and move to China. This decision sends the wrong message to corporate America, and Disney is in a position to assume a mantle of leadership for corporate responsibility as they have on numerous other issues.

The decision to close down its operations in Haiti comes at the end of a campaign that brought negative publicity to H.H. Cutler for employment in its factories. The company has argued that it must move to remain competitive with the global economy, but Haiti already has cheap wages--sometimes as cheap as 28 cents an hour. Decent working conditions are not just a moral obligation, they are necessary if the global economy is to work for everyone and not amount to a race to the bottom. We also want to make clear that H.H. Cutler will receive the same level of scrutiny operating in China than they would receive in Haiti or anywhere else.

It has also come to our attention that B.V.F. Apparel Manufacturing recently fired three workers who were top officials in the plant's nascent union: the president, the secretary, and the treasurer. B.V.F. is a clothing subcontractor for the Waterbury Corporation, a Disney licensee. As entities that do business with Disney, these companies are emissaries for Disney's public image. We hope you can do more to build a worker-friendly climate in Haiti by permitting freedom of association and other related worker rights, while asking your contractors to stay.

In April, President Clinton created the Apparel Industry Partnership, an association dedicated to ending sweatshop practices here and abroad. This unique organization has established an extremely reasonable voluntary code of conduct which requests that wages meet workers' basic needs, that overtime pay is compensated and prohibits forced or child labor. It also states that workers should be provided a healthy and safe environment where they are permitted freedom of association and the ability to bargain collectively. Many major clothing companies (and their subsidiaries) have recognized that compliance with these standards is not just humane, it is actually attractive to consumers and good for business. It would be a great step forward if Disney's contractors joined the Partnership.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Many of us have seen first hand just what that means during our visits there. In Congress, we are working hard to see that Haiti's fragile experiment in democracy ucceeds. Foreign investment is an important part of that strategy. But as President Clinton stated when forming the Apparel Industry Partnership,

human rights and labor rights must be a part of the basic framework within hich all businesses honorably compete. In this spirit, we hope you will encourage H.H. Cutler to abandon its decision to leave Haiti and generally work to create a climate more friendly to freedom of association in the workplace. Thank you for considering our views, and we look forward to hearing from you.


cc: Mr. Alain Villard, Director, B.V.F. Apparel Manufacturing,
Rues Lumumba f Cineraire,
Delmas, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, (W.I.)

The Waterbury Garment Corporation,
1669 Thomaston Avenue,
Waterbury, CT, 06704.

If you have questions you may call David Bryden at: Witness for Peace, 110 Maryland Avenue, NE #304, Washington, DC 20002;tel: 202/544-0781; fax: 202/544-1187; e-mail: witness@w4peace.org; web-site: http://www.w4peace.org/WFP