Date: Sun, 5 Sep 1999 18:18:26 -0500 (CDT)
Victory for Honduran maquila workers!
Labor Alerts, 4 September 1999
On the evening of September 2, striking maquila (assembly-for-export) workers at the Kimi apparel factory in Honduras won an agreement achieving their basic demands.
The workers went on strike on August 18 to demand compliance with the union's collective bargaining agreement, the only contract at Continental Park in La Lima, where Kimi is located. Kimi management sought to criminalize the labor conflict by charging the union with sedition, kidnaping and other acts of violence. After management refused to negotiate, Kimi workers shut down Continental Park for two days (September 28, 29). On Monday, August 30, workers at other factories in the park refused to go to work in support of the Kimi workers and were tear-gassed and beaten by riot police. On September 1, non-Kimi workers returned to work after Kimi workers distributed a leaflet urging them to do so.
Under the agreement, all Kimi workers will return to work on Monday, September 6 without reprisals. (Management had been demanding that the union leadership be removed.) In addition, Kimi will move to drop the criminal charges it had filed against the union, SITRAKIMIH. Kimi also agreed to respect the collective bargaining agreement and agreed to a new pay scale.
Negotiations between Kimi management and the union were mediated by the Honduran Labor Ministry.
Given the long and tortuous history of the Kimi struggle, it remains to be seen whether this agreement will be honored. The first test will be on Monday, when workers show up to work - and see if Kimi in fact allows all of the workers in and adheres to the agreement.
The Kimi union won a contract in March after a two-and-a-half year struggle but immediately faced opposition from Continental Park owner Jaime Rosenthal, who refused to renew Kimi's lease. Kimi then announced it would close and move to a new factory too far for most workers to travel. An international outcry ensued and Rosenthal agreed to let Kimi stay for a year if it replaced its manager. When construction of the new plant fell far behind schedule, Kimi used the opportunity to cancel the move and asked the union to help find a new location, presumably acceptable to the union. A resolution of this issue appeared likely. Discussions then began between the union and the company regarding the company's failure to respect the collective bargaining agreement. Negotiations seemed to be proceeding positively until August 18, when management walked out of the meetings, leading to a strike.
Kimi is a long-time supplier for JC Penney. Other U.S. companies sourcing from Continental Park include The Gap, Phillips-Van Heusen, Kohl's, Dayton-Hudson, Salant, Gear for Sports and American Eagle.
Until there is concrete evidence that the agreement is being respected, continued expressions of support for the Kimi workers remain appropriate. Please fill in the following two lines of information and return only the completed lines (not this entire alert!) to Campaign for Labor Rights <CLR@igc.org> or fax: (541) 431-0523 so that you can be included in the sign-on letter to the Honduran embassy. Because the situation at Kimi is so fluid, we will accept signatures for this sign-on letter only through Monday, September 6.
Signing on to latest Kimi letter:
The Honorable Hugo Noe Pino
Dear Ambassador Noe Pino:
On September 2, in negotiations mediated by the Honduran Labor Ministry, striking maquila workers at the Kimi apparel factory (in Continental Park in La Lima, Honduras) won an agreement achieving their basic demands.
Given the long and tortuous history of the Kimi struggle, it remains to be seen whether this agreement will be honored. The first test will be on Monday, when workers show up to work - to see if Kimi in fact allows all of the workers in and adheres to the agreement.
We respectfully urge the Honduran government to continue to use its good offices to ensure that: (1) Kimi complies with the September 2 agreement; (2) Kimi abides by its legally-binding collective bargaining agreement; and (3) the basic rights of all workers at Continental Park are respected.
I hope that the recent agreement between Kimi management and workers is a sign that Continental Park and its tenant Kimi are in the process of becoming an example of a free trade zone where basic rights will be respected, offering itself as a model for U.S. customers and U.S. companies that are increasingly concerned about the conditions under which apparel for the U.S. market is made.
As you know, the U.S. Congress is considering new trade benefits for Central America's maquiladora sector and many people are watching the Kimi situation and Continental Park for evidence that Honduran workers can exercise their basic rights.
cc: The Honorable Hong Koo Lee, Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Washington, DC
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