Haitian Minimum Wage Struggles: A Call to 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.

We ask that others take action, and offer some ideas below:

  • 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.
  • 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:

    Levi
    Disney
    Nautica

    Below is a sample letter

    please email Miami Autonomy & Solidarity at s.nappalos@gmail.com when you send out a letter.

    To President Preval and members of the Haitian Parliament,

    I am writing you today to express my distress at the recent actions of your government in regards to the minimum wage and the struggles to guarantee it. The law that was passed in the Parliament yet not enacted is itself grossly below the basic means of survival for Haitian workers, and still is held up by your government from being implimented. Furthermore the marches of the workers and students have been repressed brutally by government forces stifling their freedom to fight for what is justly their’s. I ask that you cease repressing these movements for justice, and enact the 200 gourde minimum wage legislation immediately.

    Sincerely,

    Your Name Here

    Kelly C Bastien 3701-7011 bastienkc@yahoo.com
    Rudy Hériveaux 3701-7016 rudyheriveaux01@yahoo.fr
    Palais National secprive@palaisnational.ht

    News Media
    info@lematinhaiti.com;
    Le Matin
    info@lenouvelliste.com;
    Nouvelliste
    inforadiovision2000haiti.net
    Vision2000
    casseusjeanvenel@yahoo.fr
    Radio Caraibe

    Embassy of the Republic of Haiti
    2311 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,
    20008
    City: Washington DC
    Phone: 202.332.4090
    Fax: 202.745.7215
    Web Site: http://www.haiti.org
    Email: embassy@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
    Phone: 212…
    Fax: 212-681-6991
    Web Site: http://www.haitianconsulate-nyc.org/
    Email: contact@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.
    Phone: 312…
    Fax: 312-922-7122
    \
    Consulate General of Haiti in Miami FL. United States of America
    259 S.W.13th St., Miami FL 33131 U.S.A.
    City: Miami
    Phone: 305-859-2003
    Fax: 305-854-7441

    Consulate of Haiti in Boston, MA. United States of America
    545 Boylston St. Suite 201. Boston, MA 02116 U.S.A.
    City: Boston
    Phone: 617-266-3660
    Fax: 617-266-4060
    Email: Info@consulathaitiboston.com

    Embassy of Haiti in Argentina
    Av. Figueroa Alcorta
    3297-1425
    City: Buenos Aires
    Phone: 541-807-0211 or 541-802-5979
    Fax: 541-802-3984

    Embassy of Haiti in Brazil
    Shisl QI 17, Conj. 04, Casa 19
    70465-900 LAGO SUL
    C.P. 08618/71600
    City: Brasilia
    Phone: 061-248-6860 or 061-248-6437
    Fax: 061-248-7472

    Consulate of Haiti in Canada
    1100, Boul. Rene Levesque Ouest
    Suite 1520
    Quebec, Canada H3B 4N4
    City: Montreal
    Phone: (514) 499-1919
    Fax: (514) 499-1818
    Web Site: http://www.haiti-montreal.org/
    Email: consulgeneral@haiti-montreal.org

    Embassy of Haiti in Chile
    Avenida 11 Septembre
    2155 Torre B, Officina 403
    City: Santiago
    Phone: 562-231-0967
    Fax: 562-231-0967

    Embassy of Haiti in Chile
    Avenida 11 Septembre
    2155 Torre B, Officina 403
    City: Santiago
    Phone: 562-231-0967
    Fax: 562-231-0967

    Embassy of Haiti in France
    Rue Théodule Ribot 10
    75827 Paris, France B.P.
    275, Cédex 28
    City: Paris
    Phone: 47 63 47 78
    Fax: 42 27 02 05

    Embassy of Haiti in Berlin, Germany
    Meinekestrasse 5
    10719
    City: Berlin
    Phone: (+49) (030) 88554134
    Fax: (+49) (030) 88554135
    Web Site: http://ayiti.de/himnet/bonn/
    Email: haitbot@aol.com
    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
    Phone: 590-893-580
    Fax: 590-893-555

    Embassy of Haiti in Italy
    Via di Villa Patrizi, 7 & 7A
    00161 Rome
    Italy
    City: Rome
    Phone: 39 06 44 25 41 07
    Fax: 39 06 44 25 42 08
    Email: amb.haiti@tiscali.it

    Embassy of Haiti in Mexico
    Cordoba 23A, Colonia Roma
    C.P. 06700
    City: Mexico
    Phone: 525-511-4390 or 525-511-4505 or 525-511-4506
    Fax: 525-533-3896

    Embassy of Haiti in Spain
    Marques del Duero, 3 1 izq.
    28001
    City: Madrid
    Phone: 34-1-575-2624
    Fax: 34-1-431-4600
    Email: embhaiti@futurnet.es

    Embassy of Haiti in Venezuela
    Quinta Flor, 59 Av. Rosas-Urban
    San Rafael de Florida
    City: Caracas
    Phone: 582-747-220
    Fax: 582-744-605

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