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Date: Wed, 16 Sep 98 11:31:16 CDT
From: Campaign for Labor Rights <clr@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Disney/Haiti update 9-15-98
Article: 43302
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.26927.19980917181527@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Negotiations underway at Megatex

Labor Alert, 15 September 1998

[The information in this alert was provided by Batay Ouvriye, whose members established a union at the Megatex factory and are involved in negotiations with management. Assistance in preparing this alert was provided by the Disney/Haiti Justice Campaign in New York City.]

Formal discussions between the union and Michel Liautaud, owner of the Megatex factory, began on Thursday, September 3. Mr. Liautaud intends to hold a series of weekly meetings with the union.

Mr. Liautaud is open to negotiating non-economic issues:

Initial results:

Batay representatives believe that these agreements show progress on important questions. However, they also point out that there has been no progress on the core issues, apart from accepting the existence of the union.

Still completely unresolved are essential economic questions involving:

Because the financial pressure in the sweatshop system comes from major companies, which set the price per item which they are willing to pay to their contractors, it is unclear how far this issue can be resolved without cooperation from the Walt Disney company.

Megatex management appears to be demonstrating a mix of good faith and bad faith in negotiations. Representing good faith on its part:

  • There have been no reprisals against union members.
  • Management is negotiating.
  • There has been progress on non-economic issues.

    Representing bad faith:

    Mr. Liautaud confirmed that Disney representatives have come to the factory three times for inspections but he denies having signed any contract with Disney. He insisted that his factory is not producing Disney garments and that, therefore, all of the union's statements regarding Disney do not apply yet to him. However, a Batay representative saw clothing with the POOH label when she went to the factory to participate in discussions with management. The owner's apparent disingenuousness on this question seems to reflect his fear that international pressure might have the result that Disney would drop him as a contractor.

    In its most recent communication, Batay said that it planned to leaflet in Megatex and another factory.


    Officials at the U.S. Embassy have contacted Batay. One of the embassy staff left a card with the Megatex owner, asking him to pass it along to Batay with a request to talk. When Batay phoned the Embassy, a staff person there said that she had accompanied the monitoring team which visited the factory on July 21. (That visit triggered the suspension of two workers who had spoken with the monitors.) The embassy person confirmed that the visitors were from Disney and stated that they were one of the Disney contractors who are interested in producing garments in Haiti. She would not provide the name of the contractor. This contact suggests that the U.S. Embassy is nervous that union organizing and international pressure in support of union activities might scare off potential U.S. investors in Haiti. This would be consistent with the U.S. policy in Haiti - and globally - that labor rights should be subordinated to trade.

    On September 7, the Haitian Ministry of Social Affairs [CLR note: Apparently this includes the equivalent of a labor ministry.] sent inspectors to visit Megatex. The inspectors spoke with some of the union members. Union activity and international pressure have put the Haitian government in a position where it feels it has to appear to be doing something. [Batay: They are all in their 'small shoes,' as we say in Haiti.] Batay has little expectation that the Ministry of Social Affairs will do anything substantively helpful.


    Discussions are taking place between Batay and the Megatex workers and supporters in the U.S. as to how best to proceed in the campaign to win justice for Disney clothing production workers in Haiti. Campaign for Labor Rights and other organizations in the U.S. want to be sure that our actions reflect the wishes of the workers.

    In related news, Voices for Haiti, a network of U.S. organizations with a broad interest in Haiti solidarity issues, held a conference call on September 11. Several members of Voices for Haiti will remain in Washington, DC for the Monday following the 50 Years Is Enough and Jubilee 2000 conferences (see calendar, below) in order to discuss strategy for re-energizing Haiti solidarity work. Campaign for Labor Rights will participate in the labor rights portion of that meeting. CLR also will help organize a workshop on the Disney/Haiti campaign at the 50 Years conference.

    ACTION REQUEST: letter to Disney

    Please copy, sign and send this latest letter to Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney, with cc's to the owner of Megatex and to Campaign for Labor Rights.

    Be sure to send a cc to Megatex owner Michel Liautaud. He is, in fact, the primary focus of this alert. The letter is framed as an original to Disney and a cc to Megatex in order to exert more pressure on Mr. Liautaud, since he will see that we are contacting his most important customer.

    Due to numerous reports that the fax numbers we previously provided for Megatex and Disney have proved nonfunctional, we have given only the postal address for Megatex this time. For Disney, we are providing both the postal address and the web site. You can send an email to Michael Eisner via the Disney web site: <www.disney.com>. Click on business information and then click on email. Find other in the choices and then copy and paste the letter to Michael Eisner and click on send.

    We are asking you to send a cc of the SIGNATURE PORTION of your letter to Campaign for Labor Rights so that we can forward your name and address to Batay Ouvriye, whose members are very interested in knowing the extent of the response to this alert. You can send this information to us via either email or fax.

    Michael Eisner, CEO
    Walt Disney Company
    500 South Buena Vista Street
    Burbank, CA 91521
    web site: www.disney.com

    Dear Mr. Eisner:

    I am writing to ask for your direct intervention to help bring about a just resolution of the situation at Megatex.

    I have been following developments at the Megatex factory, owned by Mr. Michel Liautaud. Some of these developments are positive, while others give me cause for concern.

    As positive developments, I note that:

    I am concerned, however, about the following:

    International human rights advocates have no wish to drive foreign investment out of Haiti. We are reasonable people. We are happy to give Disney and Megatex credit for positive actions on your part. If, on the other hand, Megatex and Disney stop short of a just resolution, I would respond to appeals for increased international pressure.

    I hope that, as a person of conscience and as an astute businessman, you will be moved to do what is right in this situation. I will be following the reports of credible human rights organizations who are in contact with the Disney workers at Megatex. I am a consumer who cares about labor rights.



    cc: Michel Liautaud, Megatex S.A., c/o Association des Industriels d'Haiti, B.P. 2568, Port-au-Prince, Haiti (W.I.); and Campaign for Labor Rights <CLR@igc.apc.org> fax: (541) 431-0523


    The Megatex plant in Port-au-Prince, Haiti produces clothing for Disney and other companies. This factory was the subject of a July 30 urgent alert after management suspended and fired workers suspected of engaging in organizing activities and suspended workers who spoke with a monitoring team visiting the factory. The recently suspended workers have since been reinstated and there have been no subsequent acts of anti-union repression.

    On August 10, Megatex workers initiated the official process to have their union certified. As part of that process a letter was sent to the owner of Megatex, Mr. Michel Liautaud, listing the entire union executive committee. This constituted a huge risk for the workers named, who then became subject to arbitrary firing. International pressure appears to have been crucial in heading off a new wave of repression at the factory.

    The worker organization Batay Ouvriye believes that both the ownership of Megatex and the Haitian Ministry of Social Affairs are interested in avoiding negative publicity. Still, the workers understand that getting a bargained contract will not be an easy struggle. A victory at Megatex could be an opening for organizing throughout the Port-au-Prince assembly-for-export sector.