Haitian Minimum Wage Struggles: A Call to Action
workplace struggles |
appeal / petition
Thursday July 09, 2009 09:09 by s. nappalos - Miami Autonomy & Solidarity s.nappalos at gmail dot com
Miami Autonomy & Solidarity is asking progressives and revolutionaries to organize in their communities around the Haitian minimum wage struggles.
A Call for Action
For the past five years, combative working class movements have been demanding minimum wage adjustments and hikes. The working class in Haiti is faced daily with the wrath of bourgeois repression. Workers rights to organize and to bargain collectively are constantly being denied and repressed. For the past 10 years, the minimum in Haiti has fluctuated between 15¢ and 30¢ an hour, while the cost of most goods is roughly comparable to their cost in the US. According to a recent Worker Rights Consortium study, a working class family of one working member and two dependents needs at least 550.00 gourdes per day to meet normal living expenses. The current minimum wage in Haiti is only 70 gourdes ($1.75) per day and was last adjusted in 2003. In May of this year, the Haitian Parliament passed a law merely adjusting the minimum wage to 200 gourdes per day ($.62 an hour), still a slave wage. All that is needed for this law to be enacted is for President Preval to sign it, and publish it in the official newspaper Le Moniteur. After more than three weeks of delay, the Préval administration, in step with the Haitian bourgeoisie and imperialism, not only objected to the new law, but also made a counter proposal of 125.00 gourdes.
Combative workers’ organizations and students are standing clear; they will only accept the 200.00 gourdes just voted by both Chambers in the Haitian Parliament. 200 gourdes are insufficient even for a sub standard living, and moreover it is illegal, just like the 70 gourdes wage enacted under the populist administration of Aristide.
The minimum wage adjustment in Haiti is more than 5 years overdue. Based on article 137 of the reactionary labor code, the minimum wage should be adjusted every time inflation goes up by 10 per cent in any year. The repressive Duvalier regime created this law to protect the bourgeoisie by hoping inflation would never go up that high. Now, that law has come back to haunt them. At the time of this law, one US dollar was equal to 1 Haitian gourde. Due to inflation and/also structural adjustment, 1 US dollar is (constantly fluctuating) now approximately 40 gourdes. At the same time, skyrocketing prices have increased the cost of living. Workers are forced to sell their labor power out of sheer starvation and be subjected to near slave-like conditions.
According to Préval, a minimum wage increase above the 125 gourdes proposed by him would be a catastrophe for the nation. For the past 90 years, The Haitian popular masses have been living in a state of abject poverty comparable only to slavery. All that time also, the Haitian masses, under false promises, have been constantly ensnared by the bourgeoisie and their lackeys co-opting their struggles to serve the interests of some fraction of the ruling class. This is true even when they took the streets to elect populists such as Aristide and Preval. Workers are now taught that any improvement in their social condition would be a catastrophe. Yet the popular masses are now learning unity in a battle addressing their own interests.
The students were justified when they took the streets against Duvalier and Aristide, and they were applauded by some sectors of the bourgeoisie in doing so. Yet when students today are occupying the street to demand the enactment of the minimum wage law, they are called crazy, they are labeled goons and vagabonds in the bourgeois press, and the State and the ruling classes repress them.
Besides the workers, students have been protesting daily for that law to be signed and promulgated, and it is a demand they reached independently of any engineered call for class solidarity. They are planning more battles to see it through. Some of these students are potential workers. They have witnessed first hand the slave conditions their parents and neighbors work in, who sadly are lucky enough to find work in the capitalist hellholes called sweatshops. Some of these students themselves, due to the global economic crisis, are destined also to salve away in these same sweatshops.
The workers also are resisting exploitation and repression. Most workers support demands for more than the 200 gourdes just passed. They are resisting different tactics concocted by the bourgeoisie to extract more surplus value from their labor power while at the same time keeping wages very low. Workers are resisting increasing tariffs (“What you do is what you get”), team modules (more sophisticated forms of piece work), and most of the time are forced to work more than an 8 hour day to earn the minimum wage. All cost of living calculations for a minimum wage agree it should be now at least 500 to 600 gourdes a day for an 8-hour workday. Some workers think it should be 2000 gourdes.
Some political organizations think this struggle is futile because it doesn’t encompass any action against the cost of living. They even argue that the capacity of the bourgeoisie to take away any concession of a minimum wage adjustment or hike by raising the cost of living means that workers should not fight for a minimum wage increase. They would rather choose to do nothing, but this inaction is even more in line with bourgeois interests. The argument should not be about what needs to come first. It must be based first on the relations of power between the popular classes and the ruling classes. The struggle for the minimum wage is also a training ground for more struggles to come. It is not an end in itself, but a means to accumulate more forces for later battles. This is an autonomous struggle of workers supported by students. It is a struggle based on the interests of workers as a class. For this reason we need to support it, and we should seek to widen its base and implications.
We, Miami Autonomy & Solidarity, are putting a call for action in support and in solidarity to this genuine autonomous working class struggle. We invite others to act unity with us and coordinate, or to take independent actions in solidarity if coordination is not possible or desired.
Organize a day of action to picket in front of the Haitian consulate or embassy. There is a list of consulates and embassies in many countries below.
We ask that others take action, and offer some ideas below:
Send letters, emails, and calls to the Haitian government demanding an end of the repression, and enactment of a just minimum wage, at least 200 gourdes per day, to be adjusted yearly for cost inflation.
Organize an informational picket in front of a company that does work in Haiti. Groups organizing workers could instead flyer the workers about the need for organization where we are, and for unity with workers struggling under the same company elsewhere. It will not be correct to call for a boycott at this time due to the high level of unemployment in Haiti.
Some companies that have factories in Haiti include:
Embassy of the Republic of Haiti
2311 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,
City: Washington DC
Web Site: http://www.haiti.org
Office Hours: Mon - Thurs: 0900 - 1600 hrs Friday: 0900 - 1500 hrs
Consulate of Haiti in New York, USA
271 Madison Ave.
5th Floor, New York, NY 10016
Between 39th and 40th Streets
City: New York
Web Site: http://www.haitianconsulate-nyc.org/
Consulate General of Haiti in Chicago IL. United States of America
202 S.State St., Suite 302 Chicago IL 60604 U.S.A.
Consulate General of Haiti in Miami FL. United States of America
259 S.W.13th St., Miami FL 33131 U.S.A.
Consulate of Haiti in Boston, MA. United States of America
545 Boylston St. Suite 201. Boston, MA 02116 U.S.A.
Embassy of Haiti in Argentina
Av. Figueroa Alcorta
City: Buenos Aires
Phone: 541-807-0211 or 541-802-5979
Embassy of Haiti in Brazil
Shisl QI 17, Conj. 04, Casa 19
70465-900 LAGO SUL
Phone: 061-248-6860 or 061-248-6437
Consulate of Haiti in Canada
1100, Boul. Rene Levesque Ouest
Quebec, Canada H3B 4N4
Phone: (514) 499-1919
Fax: (514) 499-1818
Web Site: http://www.haiti-montreal.org/
Embassy of Haiti in Chile
Avenida 11 Septembre
2155 Torre B, Officina 403
Embassy of Haiti in Chile
Avenida 11 Septembre
2155 Torre B, Officina 403
Embassy of Haiti in France
Rue ThÃ©odule Ribot 10
75827 Paris, France B.P.
275, CÃ©dex 28
Phone: 47 63 47 78
Fax: 42 27 02 05
Embassy of Haiti in Berlin, Germany
Phone: (+49) (030) 88554134
Fax: (+49) (030) 88554135
Web Site: http://ayiti.de/himnet/bonn/
Office Hours: 09.00-16.00
Consulate of Haiti in Guadeloupe
78 Rue Vatable 97110 Pointe à Pitre, Guadeloupe, W.I
City: Pointe à Pitre
Embassy of Haiti in Italy
Via di Villa Patrizi, 7 & 7A
Phone: 39 06 44 25 41 07
Fax: 39 06 44 25 42 08
Embassy of Haiti in Mexico
Cordoba 23A, Colonia Roma
Phone: 525-511-4390 or 525-511-4505 or 525-511-4506
Embassy of Haiti in Spain
Marques del Duero, 3 1 izq.
Embassy of Haiti in Venezuela
Quinta Flor, 59 Av. Rosas-Urban
San Rafael de Florida