Thousands of workers in Haiti have stopped working in factories and taken to the streets to demand improved working conditions in the country’s maquiladora export industry. For more than three weeks, workers have mobilized to demand higher wages, an eight-hour workday, and protections against increased quotas across the industrial centers of Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Ounaminthe and Caracol.
The strike follows the annual commemoration of International Workers’ Day.
Currently, workers receive a daily wage of roughly 300 gourdes, or about 4.77 U.S. dollars (USD), for a day’s work. Strikers are demoing that the wage is raised to 800 gourdes or 12.72 USD-and that the eight-hour day is respected.
The workers are working in assembly line factories for large U.S. companies such as Levi Jeans, and Fruit of the Loom. Business owners have long called for the use of violence against workers rights activists in Haiti and fired anymore known to associate with the unions.
The workers have maintained their willingness to continue the strike, but cracks in their mobilization are beginning to show. The constant state of crisis of poverty makes it difficult for the strike to maintain any momentum over the long run.
The Haitian parliament discussed raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation. But these efforts were derailed by pressure from the United States. Secret embassy cables exposed by WikiLeaks in 2011 highlight the collusion between the United States and businesses to keep the minimum wage low. This revelation led The Nation Magazine and Haiti Liberte to conclude, “U.S. embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to aggressively block a paltry minimum wage increase.
The Haitian Parliament successfully raised the minimum wage to roughly 5.11 U.S. dollars for an eight-hour workday in 2014, yet the raise does little to assist families on the edge of the poverty line.