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Crisis in Nicaragua

Labour News Network (LNN), 25 April 2000

The factory owners have the support of Nicaragua's Labor Ministry and the free trade zone management.

Blatant union-busting actions include:

  • Mil Colores: More than 200 workers have been fired and 68 face trumped-up criminal charges.

  • Jem III: More than 100 workers have been fired.

  • Chih Hsing: The registration of the union has been canceled and two union officers have been fired.

  • Chentex: The consortium which owns Chentex and some other factories in the free trade zone raised wages at all its factories except Chentex - in blatant discrimination against the consortium's only factory where workers have a contract and a strong union.

Union representatives of the Las Mercedes workers have issued an urgent call for international solidarity to pressure those who have the power to end these anti-union attacks:

* The government of Nicaragua, especially the Ministry of Labor

* The management of the Las Mercedes free trade zone

* The owners of the factories where unions are under attack

* U.S. companies which have clothing produced at these factories

The situation is very serious for the hundreds of workers fired during the union-busting attack.

Already hovering at or below the subsistence level when they were receiving paychecks, these workers now are in desperate straits as they consider how they will feed their families.

And for the Mil Colores workers facing possible jail time because of trumped-up charges,their future is even more frightening.

A coalition is coordinating U.S. solidarity with workers in the Las Mercedes free trade zone.

The coalition includes: Nicaragua Network, Witness for Peace, National Labor Committee, U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project, Quixote Center/Quest for Peace, Tecnica, West Side/Tipitapa Sister City Project and Campaign for Labor Rights.

On March 28, the National Labor Committee wrote to the heads of the Target and Kohl's clothing chains - both of which contract for production at Mil Colores - asking them to use their influence with the factory so that the fired workers are reinstated and the false criminal charges are dropped.

However, by the April 4 deadline given in the letter, the only response from either company was that Kohl's is "investigating."


In response to an urgent request from the Federation of Textile, Garment, Leather and Shoe Workers (which represents workers at several factories in the free trade zone), a coalition of U.S. human rights groups has called for leafleting at outlets of the Target and Kohl's clothing store chains, both of which have contracts with the Mil Colores factory.

Campaign for Labor Rights is mobilizing its Rapid Action Network to leaflet anytime from Monday, May 8 through Sunday, May 21.

We ask all member organizations of the Rapid Action Network and other local groups to take part.

MESSAGE TO TARGET AND KOHL'S Stay at Mil Colores! Do not cut and run!

Use your leverage with Mil Colores to end the union busting: * Rehire the fired workers!

* Drop charges against the 68 workers!

* Recognize and bargain with the union!

In the next few days, Campaign for Labor Rights will have the following materials available:

* Flier to promote local leafleting actions

* Leaflet master for leafleting actions

* Sample press release

* Background information

* Sample letters to Target and Kohl's

If organizers in your community are planning activities for May Day, please:

* Pass out fliers promoting the Target and/or Kohl's leafleting

* Carry placards linking Target and Kohl's with sweatshops

Please let us know ASAP:

* Whether there are Target or Kohl's outlets in your community

* Whether your group is planning a leafleting action

Campaign for Labor Rights contacts:

* National coordinator: (541) 344-5410, <CLR@igc.org>

* Midwest organizer: (773) 583-7728, <CLRChicago@mindspring.com>

* Mid-Atlantic organizer: (202) 544-9355, <CLRDC@afgj.org&#;