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Message-ID: <Pine.SV4.3.96.980731093716.15195G-100000@qlink>
Date: Fri, 31 Jul 1998 09:37:33 -0400
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Veronica Wylie <7vdw@QLINK.QUEENSU.CA>
Subject: Disney/Haiti firings, suspensions (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 18:54:02 -0700 (PDT)
From: Campaign for Labor Rights <clr@igc.apc.org>
To: clr@igc.org
Subject: Disney/Haiti firings, suspensions

Firings and suspensions at Disney/Haiti contractor

Labor Alert, 30 July 1998

[The following alert is based on information provided by the worker organization Batay Ouvriye in communications sent from Haiti on July 25 and 30. The information in this alert is fragmentary because of difficulty in maintaining communications with Haiti, where breakdown of phone transmission can be a frequent problem. Thanks to the Disney/Haiti Justice Campaign <Kapab@aol.com> in New York City for facilitating communications between Campaign for Labor Rights and Batay Ouvriye.]

NOTE: After consulting with Batay Ouvriye, Campaign for Labor Rights recently initiated discussions with several U.S.-based organizations about the possibility of working in alliance to re-energize the Disney/Haiti campaign. We hope to be able to announce new developments about that project within the next few weeks.

Union Busting

According to Yanick Etienne, a spokeswoman for Batay Ouvriye, management at Megatex S.A. (a Disney clothing contractor in Port-au-Prince, Haiti) has begun a campaign of suspending and firing workers suspected of trying to organize a union. This is part of a wave of anti-worker, anti-union repression. Workers are being spied on, reported, suspended and fired for talking with each other about problems they face in the factory. Such reprisals are arbitrary and illegal.

According to Batay, Megatex also makes a frequent practice of firing workers prior to the conclusion of their 3-month probation period, to avoid having to provide severance pay and other legally mandated benefits. Workers fired after their 3-month probation also often are cheated out of such benefits, with the company offering a variety of pretexts. It is in that context that the company has terminated more than 15 workers in recent months, among whom were 7 workers fired for suspected union activities.

On Tuesday, July 21, after a visit by a U.S. monitoring team to the floor of the assembly plant, two workers were suspended without explanation. Management summoned the two and informed them of the 10-day suspension. This suspension is not only a hardship for these workers economically but also is an outright violation of the Haitian labor code and arbitrarily penalizes workers for answering questions asked by monitors.

Megatex and Disney

Owned by a Haitian, Michel Liautaud, Megatex has operated under a series of three names since 1988: Solec, Control S.A. and Megatex S.A. Mr. Liautaud could also be the owner or co-owner of two other apparel assembly plants: Megatex Number 2 and Industrial Park Number 32. Batay Ouvriye has only limited information on these other factories but sufficient data to verify that conditions are essentially the same in all three.

Megatex has been assembling Disney garments for a number of years. Megatex was one of 14 or 15 factories investigated by Batay in the summer of 1995. Their investigation resulted in a report published by the National Labor Committee, The U.S. in Haiti: How To Get Rich on 11 Cents an Hour. That report and a video, Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti, are available from the NLC at (212) 242-3002, <natlabcom@aol.com>.

Megatex workers assemble clothes for Waterbury Garment Corporation, which contracts with Disney to produce the POOH line - as well as for other companies which contract with Disney. Megatex's other customers include K-mart and Sears. More than half of the production at Megatex is for Disney. In addition to the Disney label, other brand names which Megatex produces for include: True-Fan Sportwear, Royal Manor, Basic Editions and Jackie's Girls.

In recent years, other factories producing for Disney in Haiti have been the subject of urgent alerts. This is the first time that Batay has called for an urgent action focused on Megatex.

Monitoring Team

Batay has not been able to determine who sent the monitoring team or which contractor they represent. The team consisted of two men accompanied by their own Haitian interpreter/guide.

The monitors had permission to talk with workers without restrictions. But, prior to the monitors' arrival, management announced over the factory public address system that workers were not to speak the truth about their working conditions and their low wages. They were warned that, if they spoke about bad things, they would be out their jobs because the factory would lose its contracts with the American company.

Specifically, they were ordered to lie about their earnings. Instead of reporting the 36 gourdes (US $2.20) they earn after a day's work, they were told to say that they receive US $36. However, some of the workers who were asked about their salaries and their living conditions did tell the monitoring team about how difficult it is for them to survive on what they are earning at the plant. Workers were asked about their obviously malnourished bodies and their paleness. They answered honestly that they can't eat properly due to their low wages.

Interviews were not conducted in private. One manager stood nearby. Also, supervisors were all over the floor and easily could have heard any conversation. In additional, some workers may have been serving management as informers. Any of these people could have known what the workers told the monitoring team.

Working Conditions

Besides pay, other issues of concern to the workers are that the toilets are not cleaned, there is no potable water and sexual harassment is common, especially from one of the men in the accounting section. Workers report being treated disrespectfully.


Please copy, sign and send the following letter to Michael Eisner of Disney, with a cc to the owner of Megatex:

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

Dear Mr. Eisner:

I am writing to call your attention to a pattern of abuses committed against workers by one of your contractors, the Megatex S.A. factory in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Management at the factory has arbitrarily and illegally fired or suspended a number of workers suspected of engaging in union organizing activities. Most recently, two workers each received 10-day suspensions - just for speaking the truth to monitors invited into the factory by the owner, Mr. Michel Liautaud!

Such firings and suspensions are illegal under Haitian law. Also, they are abhorrent to people of conscience. How can you justify that one of your contractors would suspend a worker for providing an honest answer to a monitor who asked why she was so emaciated? Mr. Eisner, not only do you live comfortably on the hundreds of millions of dollars which the Disney company pays you, but you also allow your contractors to pay your workers starvation wages and then punish them for speaking the truth about their pitiful earnings.

I will be following reports from credible human rights groups to see whether you have instructed Megatex management: 1) to stop their campaign of intimidation immediately; and 2) to take back - with full back pay - any workers who have been unjustly suspended or fired. I hope to learn that Disney has instructed Megatex to respect the workers' right to speak the truth and to organize a union if they wish to. Is it too much to ask that contractors for the multi-billion dollar Disney company might bargain a contract with these workers to ensure that they have a living wage, clean toilets and water fit to drink?

Let me be clear what I am NOT asking: I do not want to hear that the Disney company has cut and run from Megatex or from Haiti. Your company has made huge profits from these workers. Now it's time to respect their rights as human beings. Stay put in Haiti and at Megatex, Mr. Eisner, and use your considerable economic leverage to persuade Megatex to do what is right.

I am a consumer who cares about justice for workers.


cc: Michel Liautaud, Megatex S.A., c/o Association des Industriels d'Haiti, B.P. 2568, Port-au-Prince, Haiti (W.I.), Fax: (509) 46-462211