Date: Mon, 3 Mar 97 11:53:30 CST
From: rich%pencil@PSUVM.PSU.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Hatiti: Challenge to Disney/U.S. Embassy
Article: 6620

/** reg.carib: 203.0 **/
** Topic: Challenge to Disney/U.S. Embassy **
** Written 8:56 PM Feb 27, 1997 by wohaiti in cdp:reg.carib **

Economic Justice Delegation and Labor Rights

Washington Office on Haiti, 16 February—26 February 1997

Washington Office on Haiti Concludes Investigation and Challenges the U.S. and Disney to Take Action

Port-au-Prince—After an intense week of interviews and on-site observations in Port-au-Prince and the Artibonite Valley, the Economic Justice and Labor Delegation of the Washington Office on Haiti warns that the major international Financial institutions—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development (U.S.AID)—are pushing Haiti down a path that can never lead to real development for the Haitian people. If followed, its direction will bring Haiti to economic, environmental and social disaster.

The delegation finds a head-on collision between: a. the so-called Structural Adjustment Programs that the International Financial Institutions are demanding of Haiti, and; b. the goal of Haiti’s food security as the basis of a sustainable economy and a democratic way of life.

I. Food Security and economic development

We have seen potentially impressive efforts being mad in the Artibonite to dramatically increase food production and enable Haiti to eventually feed itself. These efforts include land reform, re-organization of ODVA (the quasi-governmental body that was established to assist the Artibonite rice-growers), rejuvenation of peasants’ associations, and research and technical assistance by the agricultural mission of the Government of Taiwan. Unfortunately these efforts will all go down the drain if the country’s over-all economic policies remain in thrall to neoliberalism, said Tom F. Driver, author and member of the Washington Office on Haiti delegation.

Summarizing the incompatibility between neoliberal policies and Haiti’s national production, an Artibonite Department Senator, Samuel Madistin, said: Haiti’s self-sufficiency an the Structural Adjustment Programs go together like milk and lemon.

The presence of the Taiwanese agricultural mission in Haiti is especially significant in view of the fact that Taiwan has recently joined the ranks of newly-developed countries by following a path nearly the opposite of the one now being pushed upon Haiti. The Taiwanese mission eagerly explained to the delegation that Taiwan’s economic success depended first of all upon achieving self-sufficiency in food production, followed by the encouragement of industries devoted to local consumption, and only later—upon this sure foundation of economic independence—an orientation toward exports.

The WOH delegation believes that Haiti should follow a similar path, and warns that if Haiti is forced to follow the neoliberal policies, its misery will only increase.

II. Exploitation of Labor

Advocates of the neoliberal path for Haiti stake much of their argument on the advantages Haiti may expect from increased employment in assembly plants. The delegation finds:

  1. that factory employment is not expanding;
  2. that even if it did, it could provide jobs for only about 2% of the work force;
  3. that conditions in the sweatshops stitching up garments for sale in K Mart, Wall Mart, Disney Stores, etc. are extremely exploitative. Haiti’s Labor Code is seldom adhered to and the Labor Court is ineffective. The minimum wage—which in any case is not enough to live on—is sometimes not paid. Daily piecework quotas are unrealistic and frequently raised if they are met. Workers who do not make the quota are first reprimanded and then fired. Sexual harassment is frequent. Workers who attempt to organize are fired.

III. We Issue a Challenge to Disney and the U.S. Embassy

The Disney Co., when asked to justify the labor practices of its suppliers in Haiti, touts a letter from the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, William L. Swing, in which he claims to have investigated the factories and assures Disney that the plants manufacturing its garments pay Haiti’s minimum wage and meet other essential standards. However, the delegation’s interviews with workers contradict these finding.

Therefore, today the Washington Office on Haiti issues a CHALLENGE to the Disney Co. and the U.S. Embassy in Haiti:

We challenge the United States Government and the Disney Co. to respect the human and economic rights of workers no less than the rights of investment capital. We look forward to their responses, said Marx-Vilaire Aristide, the Washington Office on Haiti’s Executive Director.

Investigative consultations conducted with the following

Yanick Etienne
Batay Ouvriye

Michael Harvey

Mary Ellen Gilroy
U.S. Information Service (USIS)
U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince

Women workers from assembly plants

Camille Chalmers
Executive Secretary Haitian Advocacy Platform for an Alternative Development (PAPDA)

Fr. Jean-Yves Urfie, Director
Libete (Haitian Creole Weekly)

Senator Samuel Madistin
Senator Mehu Garcon
Parliamentarians for Global Action

Jean-Claude Delicer,
General Director Organization for the Development of the Artibonite Valley (ODVA)

Dr. Lu Ching-Long Michel,
Minister Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan)

Haitian Information Bureau

Claude Rene
Yves Sanon
Collective for Mobilization Against the IMF & Neoliberalism

Stephen Phelps
Haitian Agronomist

Abdul Wahab

Chenet Jean-Baptiste
Franck Desir
Haitian Human Rights Platform

Alex Beauchamps
Haitian Collective for the Protection of the Environment and Alternative Development (COHPEDA)

Taiwanese Agricultural Mission in the Artibonite Valley

Follow-up Committee of ODVA

Note: The delegation requested visits with the following assembly factories, all of which produce for Disney. However, the requests were denied: