Haitian Garment Workers Shortchanged on Pay

ImageAt Batay Ouvriye, It’s been a very long time since we have been fighting in many ways to obtain a decent minimum wage for all workers in the garment industry: in vain. Today, as the theft is going more than violent, many progressive organizations stand together to consolidate the fight: the first step being to, at least, obtain the legal minimum wage, even if this one is still very low.
There is a sign-on letter from TransAfrica and, below, the link to the last Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) report, all concerning the minimum wage in Haiti, unpaid by the criminal factory owners of this country .
Please, participate! In forcing this endless theft to have a conclusion.
The followingd sign-on letter  is being circulated by TransAfrica regarding the widespread refusal by apparel manufacturers to pay the minimum wage to Haitian garment workers. The Worker Rights Consortium just completed a report documenting the extent of the failure to pay the legally required wage, which is already among the lowest in the hemisphere, and the NYT article on the report was already circulated on this list (http://flk.r.mailjet.com/redirect/bd2ttw9q8x4oqj025xovxw/www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/world/americas/group-says-haitian-garment-workers-are-shortchanged-on-pay.html). The sign-on letter is below, and a link to the full report is below. As the report shows, workers who are already subject to one of the lowest minimum wages in the hemisphere are actually being paid even less, taking money out of the pockets of Haitian families. Independent unions in Haiti have named these low wages as a key issue for their members.
TransAfrica is looking for organizations or individuals with affiliations (academics, clergypeople, etc.) to sign onto this letter by Wednesday, Oct 30. If you can sign on, please send your organization’s name and logo to Melinda at melinda.miles@gmail.com.

An Appeal to Apparel Brands and Retailers Sourcing from Haiti

Nearly four years after the powerful earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital and surrounding areas, promises of a recovery that would set the Haitian people on a path of economic development and social justice appear to be forgotten. Jobs in export garment factories, making clothes for top North American brands and retailers, have been promoted as a panacea for the economic misery of Haiti’s people.  Yet the truth is that North American apparel companies have been complicit in the exploitation of Haitian workers – the most vulnerable in our hemisphere – by refusing to require their supplier factories to pay these workers the country’s legal minimum wage.

We, the undersigned civil, human and worker rights organizations, are voicing our deep concern about systematic wage theft that is happening in garment factories in Haiti. Both the International Labor Organization and International Finance Corporation’s Better Work Haiti factory monitoring program and the Worker Rights Consortium have documented wholesale noncompliance with Haiti’s minimum wage laws in the country’s export apparel factories.

We are particularly disturbed that these wage violations are happening while these factories are supplying North America’s top apparel companies, and are receiving preferential treatment through trade legislation intended to strengthen the Haitian garment industry ‒ and despite the fact that Haiti’s minimum wage for export garment workers is the lowest in our hemisphere.

Factories in Haiti supplying top North American brands and retailers routinely, and illegally, cheat workers of substantial portions of their pay. Tacitly complicit in this wage theft are major apparel companies like Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart that profit from the lower prices they can pay to factories that violate the law.

The newly released Worker Rights Consortium report, “Stealing from the Poor: Wage Theft in Haitian Apparel Industry,” reveals the extent to which this systematic illegal deprivation of wages of the hemisphere’s poorest population is preventing Haitian garment workers and their families from meeting even their most basic needs.

The WRC report reveals that wage theft in the country’s garment industry has only increased over the past few years to the point where workers are being denied 1/3 of their legally-due wages. Earlier this year, Better Work Haiti reported that every single one of the country’s export garment factories was violating the country’s legal minimum wage.

Haiti’s minimum wage was recently increased (to approximately $.82 an hour) because it was widely understood that workers were receiving starvation wages. Many of the factory workers in Haiti’s capital live in tent or shanty communities, still homeless since they were victims of the 2010 earthquake.  Sadly, factory jobs that promised to lift them out of poverty seem to merely hold them there.

Immediately after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Americans from all walks of life donated money and goods to Haiti, and supported policies that would help Haitians rebuild their country, including through the expansion of the export garment sector. The systematic theft of wages from workers in Haitian garment factories, the hemisphere’s most vulnerable apparel workers, is an affront to not only to Haitians, but also to Americans who  contributed both tax dollars and charitable donations to help Haiti rebuild after the earthquake. 

In light of the evidence of widespread wage theft in the Haitian garment sector presented by Better Work Haiti and the Worker Rights Consortium, and to support a more just future for the Haitian people, we call on North American apparel companies doing business in Haiti to:

  • To require their supplier factories in Haiti to pay regular production workers in accordance with the country’s legal minimum wage standard of U.S. $6.97 per day.. Assure these factories that these brands and retailers are willing to maintain their business with them, and pay sufficient prices for garments, so that these factories to can pay the legal minimum wage while  preserving jobs for Haitian workers.
  • Work with these factories to ensure that workers who have been denied legally-earned wages by being paid below the legal minimum are fully compensated.

This matter deserves your immediate attention and we hope for a quick and just remedy to this troubling situation.


Letter from the Workers Rights Consortium: 
At this link please find a newly-released report from the WRC documenting pervasive minimum wage violations in export garment factories in Haiti, including those producing university licensed apparel.
Since 2011, the International Labor Organization and International Finance Corporation’s Better Work Haiti factory monitoring program has consistently reported overwhelming noncompliance by Haitian export garment factories with the country’s legal minimum wage. A report from Better Work Haiti in April 2013 indicated that every one of the country’s export garment factories was violating the law.
The WRC’s new report details for the first time, however, the massive scale of the unlawful denial of wages taking place in Haitian garment factories and its severe impact on Haitian garment workers and their families, revealing that these workers ‒ some of the poorest in the world ‒ are seeing roughly a third of their legally earned wages being effectively stolen every pay period. The report urges licensees and other North American apparel companies doing business in Haiti to immediately require their supplier factories in the country to begin paying their workers in accordance with the minimum wage law and to provide full back-pay to workers for past wage-and-hour violations.
As already noted, the fact that there have been ongoing and widespread minimum wage violations in the country’s garment sector has, or should have, been known to licensees and other companies sourcing from Haiti ‒ both from the public reporting of Better Work Haiti and, we must assume, from each company’s own supply chain monitoring ‒ for some time. Yet this epidemic of wage theft, which, as this report details, leaves Haitian garment workers and their families without access to adequate food, shelter and medical care, has continued unabated for several years, with buyers failing to take effective corrective action.
The WRC has already shared this report with both those licensees that have disclosed producing collegiate apparel with garments manufactured in Haiti ‒ Ad Resources, Cotton Gallery, Lake Shirts, New Agenda, Russell and T-Shirt International ‒ and leading apparel manufacturers Gildan and HanesBrands, which are both major purchasers of t-shirts from supplier factories in Haiti and a significant source of blank apparel to many licensees. We are awaiting substantive responses from these companies as to the findings and recommendations in this report, and will share them with affiliate universities and colleges when they are received.
We are hopeful that the report will lead to code compliance at the affected collegiate factories and remediation for apparel workers throughout the industry in Haiti.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions about the report’s findings and recommendations.



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