Haitian workers march in Dominican Republic

On Sept. 14, dozens of immigrant workers from Haiti marched through several localities in the northwest of the Dominican Republic to demand their basic rights. The protesters, most of them undocumented agricultural workers, held signs showing newspaper articles about oppressive working conditions in the plantations. The protest was intended to be part of international observances of the Week of the Immigrant, according to the Jesuit Regino Martinez, coordinator of the organization Border Solidarity. After the march, the workers, accompanied by their wives and children, gathered in the Catholic church in Ranchadero, Montecristi province, where Martinez celebrated a mass. (El Universal, Mexico, Sept. 14 from EFE; AlterPresse, Sept. 18 from EFE)

Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent work in Dominican plantations under conditions “close to slavery,” according to the “Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights Violations,” released by the 168-million member International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Brussels on Sept. 18. The majority of Haitian workers in the country are denied their right under Dominican law to form unions, the report says, and the situation is not limited to agricultural workers. Eight women were fired by the Bancas Real Sports consortium, a company handling sports bets and lotteries, because they had formed a union.

Labor conditions are growing more difficult for all Dominican workers in the “free trade zones” (FTZ), where assembly plants produce for export, mostly to the US. The report says that employers frequently fire workers who organize and ignore decisions by the labor tribunals, while the government makes no serious effort to enforce the labor laws. Anti-union activities by FTZ employers and by plantation owners, including several cases of large-scale dismissals and intimidation of workers, also took place in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, according to the report.

Latin America was the world’s deadliest region for unionists, the ITUC said, mostly because of Colombia, where 78 union members and leaders were murdered in 2006. The report also noted the killing of two striking Mexican miners by police; repression by the Ecuadoran police and army of a union-organized demonstration against a free trade agreement with the USA, in which 15 people were seriously injured; and the murder of Guatemalan port workers’ union leader Pedro Zamora on Jan. 15 of this year. (AlterPresse, Sept. 18; Campaign for Labor Rights, Sept. 21)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 23

See our last posts on the Dominican Republic, Haiti and DR-CAFTA.