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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 8 Aug 97 12:37:11 CDT
From: Mike Rhodes <clr2@igc.apc.org>
Subject: NPR Distorts Worker Rights Struggle in Haiti
Article: 15928

National Public Radio Report Seriously Distorts Struggle for Worker Rights in Haiti

Labor Alert, 8 August 1997


On July 8, National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast a story on Morning Edition by correspondent David Welna in which he argued that it was the misguided efforts of human rights advocates in the United States that were driving Disney and H.H. Cutler to pull out of Haiti. For Welna, the largest multinationals in the world--companies like Disney, Wal-Mart, Kmart, H.H. Cutler/VF--have no other choice but to flee Haiti and move to China in the face of pressure to respect worker rights and to pay a wage that comes close to meeting basic subsistence needs.

Background and Analysis

David Welna in his report presents only the view that multinationals have the unassailable right to roam the world in search of misery and high unemployment, where naturally they will find the lowest wages and the least regulation. Under this scenario, any attempt to condition global trade on respect for human rights, and to hold corporations accountable for the way they treat workers, will boomerang back on the poor, destroying jobs, forcing companies to flee while also deterring further investments.

Despite the fact that it was explained at length to program directors at National Public Radio that this report was unfair and could seriously damage the struggle to defend human and worker rights in Haiti, NPR has refused to give the National Labor Committee (NLC)--or, more importantly, any Haitian popular organizations--the opportunity to respond.

To set the record straight: it was the Haitian workers who requested that the National labor Committee convey to Disney and its contractors their modest wage proposal (58 cents an hour, up from 28 cents an hour) and their need to have their rights respected.

The question of jobs in Haiti is a deadly serious one, never to be taken lightly. There is massive unemployment. The NLC spoke with Haitian workers, with Batay Ouvriye and other Haitian organizations about the possible threat that Disney and other contractors could react to a solidarity campaign by cutting and fleeing from Haiti. NLC pledged that it, and the organizations it worked with, would fight with every ounce of strength that they have to prevent that.

The National Labor Committee first became involved in Haiti in 1993 at the request of President Bertrand Aristide, who asked the NLC to travel to Haiti (during the coup) to investigate serious human rights abuses in the assembly factories producing under contract with U.S. companies. In fact, one reason for the coup was to block President Aristide's wage reforms. The National Labor Committee was the only labor rights organization invited to return to Haiti with President Aristide, who wrote to the Committee:

Your dedication to Haiti and your tireless support for our cause have given Haiti a chance to make democracy bloom again. On behalf of the Haitian people, and myself, I offer our profound gratitude for the hand of solidarity that you extended.

The NLC points out that, in the past, it has worked successfully with other giant U.S. apparel companies, such as Liz Claiborne and The Gap, generating popular pressure so that they kept their production in Central America, rather than cutting and running in the fact of human rights campaigns.

Suggested Action:

It is important that such a biased report as the one by David Welna not go unchallenged, since it could have serious consequences, in effect, leading people to hesitate, to question the value of human rights campaigns, afraid their efforts will backfire and hurt the very people they wanted to aid. Such an agenda frees the hands of the multi-nationals while tying the hands of decent people.

Write, fax, or e-mail a letter to National Public Radio demanding equal time for Haitian human rights groups.

Sample letter:

Mr. Greg Allen
Senior Editor, Morning Edition
National Public Radio
635 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001-3753
Fax: (202) 414-3329

E-mail: morning@npr.org

Dear Mr. Allen:

The NPR story by David Welna, broadcast on July 8, regarding the need of Disney and other multinationals to flee Haiti in the face of a human rights campaign was factually incorrect and biased. It has caused considerable harm. I urge NPR to provide equal time to Batay Ouvriye, a worker rights group in Haiti, and to an important Haitian human rights organization in the U.S., the Washington Office on Haiti. These representatives of the Haitian people deserve the chance to respond to the misinformation in the report and the opportunity to try to undo some of the damage done to the defense of human and worker rights in Haiti.


Your name

For more information, contact Maggie Poe at the National Labor Committee, 275 7th Ave., New York, NY 10001; Tel: (212) 242-3002; Fax: (212) 3821.