Tuesday, October 4, 2011

WNU #1099: Haitian Garment Bosses Fight Unionization Drive

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1099, October 2, 2011

1. Haiti: Garment Bosses Fight New Unionization Drive
2. Haiti: Martelly Backs Clinton Aide, Army Restoration
3. Honduras: Police Find Shipment of Arms From US
4. Trade: US Unions Fight Colombia and Panama FTAs
5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com

*1. Haiti: Garment Bosses Fight New Unionization Drive
The management of two Port-au-Prince apparel factories owned by wealthy and powerful Haitians--Gerald Apaid and former presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker--fired a total of five officers of a new garment workers union between Sept. 23 and Sept. 25, a little more than a week after the union announced its formation.

Johny Deshommes, a spokesperson for the Textile and Garment Workers Union (SOTA), lost his job at Apaid’s Genesis S.A. factory on Sept. 23 when he asked to be allowed to go home because of a fever. Three other members of SOTA’s executive committee, Brevil Claude, Wilner Eliacint and Cénatus Vilaire, were fired on Sept. 25 when they tried to meet with the human resources director to discuss Deshommes’ firing; Genesis management brought in two police agents to intimidate and threaten the unionists before they were allowed to leave. SOTA’s secretary, Mitial Rubin, was fired from Baker’s One World Apparel after he had leafleted workers outside the factory.

A third apparel company in the capital, Richard Coles’ Multiwear SA, fired union member Hilaire Jean-François on Sept. 30, and there are reports of harassment of other unionists.

The factories, located in the National Industrial Parks Company (Sonapi) facility near the Port-au-Prince airport, are tax-exempt assembly plants producing largely for export (known in Spanish as maquiladoras). None of the Sonapi factories are unionized, and unions have been kept out of most Haitian assembly plants, although the leftist group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”) succeeded in organizing a union in 2004 at the assembly plants in Ouanaminthe at the Dominican border in the Northeast department [see Update #829].

SOTA’s formation was announced on Sept. 15 at a press conference in Port-au-Prince with representatives of Batay Ouvriye. Representatives of Haitian and international organizations also attended, including Camille Charlmers, executive secretary of the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), and Víctor Báez Mosqueira, secretary general of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (CSA-TUCA). The union has registered with Haiti’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST).

The firings have received some international attention: the General Union of Guadeloupe Workers (UGTG), which led a 44-day general strike in the French Caribbean colony of Guadaloupe in 2008 [see Update #988], denounced the companies’ actions and declared its solidarity with SOTA. Batay Ouvriye has announced plans to file complaints with the Haitian authorities about the situation, and the group is asking solidarity activists to email the factory owners and the Association des Industries d’Haïti (ADIH, a factory owners’ group) demanding the reinstatement of the unionists and full collective bargaining rights for assembly plant workers. The emails can be sent to Mr. Gerard Apaid/Genesis at gapaid33166@yahoo.com; Mr. Charles Henry Baker/One World Apparel at chbaker@pbapparel.com; Mr. Richard Coles/Multiwear at rcoles@multitex.com; and ADIH at administration@adih.ht, with copies to Batay Ouvriye at batay@batayouvriye.org. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 9/16/11, 9/29/11, 9/30/11; Batay Ouvriye press release 9/27/11 via anarkismo.net 9/28/11, press release 10/1/11 via email)

In other labor news, the Association of Elementary School Teachers of Port-au-Prince Municipal Schools (ASIEMP) threatened to start an open-ended strike in the capital on Oct. 4, the day after schools open for the fall, to demand five months’ back pay the union says is owed to a group of 800 teachers. The week before, on Sept. 28, some 30 members and supporters of the National Union of Haitian Teachers (UNNOH) marched in Port-au-Prince to demand that President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) promulgate a law regulating school fees. Parliament passed the law in 2009, but it has never gone into effect. The marchers also demanded reinstatement of laid-off teachers and restoration of a bonus; they expressed doubts that the president really intends to carry out a plan he has announced for free public education. (AlterPresse 9/29/11, ___; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 9/30/11)

*2. Haiti: Martelly Backs Clinton Aide, Army Restoration
The Haitian Senate was scheduled to start discussions on President Michel Martelly’s latest nominee for prime minister, Garry Conille, on Oct. 3. The Chamber of Deputies voted 89-0 on Sept. 16 in favor of the nomination after Parliament rejected Martelly’s two previous choices. The government has been administered by acting prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive, a holdover from the previous administration, ever since Martelly took office in May.

Garry Conille is the resident coordinator for the United Nations Development Program in Niger and has been an assistant to former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), the United Nations’ special envoy for Haiti and the co-president of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, or CIRH in French and Spanish). The choice of Conille has been controversial because of his long association with Clinton, who was already being referred to in political circles as the de facto “governor of Haiti” [see Update #1096]. According to the Miami Herald, Conille insists “that he’s not the international community’s candidate.” (MH 9/17/11 from correspondent; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 10/1/11)

In another controversial move, Martelly is apparently planning to reinstitute the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAd’H), which was abolished on Jan. 6, 1995 by then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). A document entitled “Haiti Security: All the Details on the Project for the New National Force,” not yet released officially, describes a plan for an initial force with 3,500 members; recruitment would begin in October or November.

Grassroots movements strongly oppose the plan. Osnel Jean-Baptiste, spokesperson for Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen ("Small Haitian Peasants Unity"), said that if the army returns, it “will only work for one part” of the population and that the wounds from the old military’s acts of repression have not yet healed. Yanick Étienne, a spokesperson for the leftist group Batay Ouvriye (“Workers’ Struggle”), called the proposed army “one more force against the people. This won’t be an army that will defend the nation’s interests.” (AlterPresse (Haiti) 9/29/11)

*3. Honduras: Police Find Shipment of Arms From US
Honduran police spokesperson Julián Hernández announced on Sept. 30 that agents had discovered an illegal shipment of arms from the US in Puerto Cortés, the country’s main port, in the northern department of Cortés. The arms, hidden in several boxes containing garments, included five rifles, an Uzi submachine gun, a pistol and a supply of ammunition. It was sent via Guatemala from a “Héctor Figueroa” in the US to a “Concepción Duarte,” who reportedly lives in San Francisco de la Paz in eastern Honduras.

The authorities reported discovering another shipment of arms from the US on Sept. 8; this one was sent to a man identified as “Pablo Flores,” who was said to have died in a confrontation with the police in northern Honduras. (EFE 9/30/11 via Terra (Spain))

Northern Honduras, especially the Lower Aguán Valley area, has been the site of violent struggles over land over the past two years and has also seen increased activity by drug smugglers and other criminals [see Updates #1094, 1096]. The government has responded to growing violence by militarizing the region, but local grassroots organizations say that while the military presence has done little to end killings and other criminal activity, it has increased the repression of campesino groups. On Sept. 30, the same day the latest arms discovery was announced, Honduran and international organizations opened a four-day conference in Tocoa, Colón department, entitled “Gathering Against Militarization, Occupation and Repression in Honduras: Militant Solidarity With the Lower Aguán.” (Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 9/30/11; Adital (Brazil) 9/30/11)

*4. Trade: US Unions Fight Colombia and Panama FTAs
Richard Trumka, president of the US’s AFL-CIO labor federation, sent a letter to US president Barack Obama on Sept. 26 opposing any immediate action on a proposed free trade agreement (FTA, TLC in Spanish) with Colombia. Obama is expected to send the Colombia-US FTA for approval to Congress in the next few weeks. Trumka, whose federation is the largest union group in the US, said a labor action plan that Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos agreed to in April has proven ineffective. According to the AFL-CIO, Colombian workers are still forced to sign pactos colectivos--salary and benefit agreements imposed by employers--or to join cooperatives that act as company unions. So far this year, 22 unionists have been murdered in Colombia, including 15 since the labor action plan went into effect, Trumka wrote. (AFL-CIO Now blog 9/26/11)

The AFL-CIO has initiated a “call-in day” on Oct. 4 against the Colombia-US FTA and against similar deals with South Korea and Panama. The federation says that the Korea FTA, “is the biggest trade deal since NAFTA” (the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993) and “would displace an estimated 159,000 net US jobs, mostly in manufacturing.” The AFL-CIO described Panama as a “tax haven for money launderers and tax dodgers” with “a history of failing to protect workers’ rights.” Activists can call US representatives at 800-718-1008 to oppose the agreements. (Alliance for Global Justice 9/28/11)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti

Long Live the Students! (Chile)

Photo Essay - A Clash of Classes: Chilean Students Fight for a Better Education System

Chile: police attack Mapuche community after clash at timber camp

Brazil: Judge Suspends Belo Monte Dam Construction In Amazon

Bolivia: interior minister next to resign over Amazon repression

Bolivia: defense minister resigns over Amazon repression

Bolivia: General Strike Protests Crackdown on Native March

Bolivia: Amazon protest march resumes in tense atmosphere

An Open Letter to Our Friends About the Current Situation in Bolivia

'We Are All TIPNIS' (Bolivia)

Peru: government to mediate in dispute over Tacna copper mine

Painkillers and Pens Used to Placate Peru’s Indians as Gas Giants Move In

Ecuador: Criminalization of the Social Protest in Times of the ‘Citizen Revolution’

Latest UNDP Report on Colombia: 'It's the Rural Economy, Stupid.'

U.S. President Obama Nominates Chavez Critic for Top Latin America Post

Book Review - Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba Are Changing the World’s Conception of Health Care

Nicaragua: journalist flees country after death threats over "re-contra" reportage

Drug War Meets Dirty War In Guerrero (Mexico)

Mexico: severed heads left as grisly message to striking teachers in Acapulco

Why Such Extreme Violence? (Mexico)

Paramilitary Justice (Mexico)

Wife Of Mexican Drug Lord “El Chapo” Guzmán Gives Birth In U.S.

Haiti Urged to Bring Jean-Claude Duvalier to Justice

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