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In the Dominican Republic, domestic workers have campaigned to make gains over the last two decades—and a new Solidarity Center report shows how.
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Dominican Republic
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In the Dominican Republic, the Solidarity Center works with the National Confederation of United Trade Unions (CNUS) and its affiliates to defend and expand worker rights improve working conditions and promote labor law compliance.

A street vendor in the Dominican Republic. Photo: Ricardo Rojas

For the past two decades, the Dominican Republic’s economy has been one of the world’s fastest growing. Yet few have shared in the national prosperity. Poverty increased from 32 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2011. The richest 10 percent of the population, overwhelmingly the white descendants of Spanish settlers, own most of the land and benefit from 40 percent of national income. The poorest are people of African descent, including an estimated 900,000 to 1.2 million undocumented migrants, primarily from Haiti, and their descendants.

Unemployment and underemployment have forced over half of the nation’s workers into the precarious informal economy, which is not regulated by the state. The self-employed street vendors, domestic workers, agricultural day laborers and construction workers who comprise the informal economy make low wages in often unsafe working conditions, and have no health care or other social protections.

Without decent work—characterized by family-supporting wages, safe workplaces and social protections—forming unions has become more difficult for workers, and only 13 percent belong to unions.

Some of the worst conditions are in the sugarcane industry, where many workers, primarily descendants of Haitian migrants, often labor 12 hours per day, seven days per week. In the cane fields, workers are exposed to hazardous working conditions, including exposure to pesticides, and employers often do not provide them with basic safety equipment, like gloves and boots.

National law prohibits the estimated 1 million Haitian migrant workers and stateless Dominicans (those born within the country, but not recognized as citizens due to their parents’ undocumented immigration status) from participating in trade unions, which further marginalizes these workers at the workplace and in society.

In recent years, domestic workers, with support from unions, community groups and the Solidarity Center, have made gains in terms of protection and improvements in working conditions. Some 90 percent of the nation’s 300,000 domestic workers are women, and female migrant workers, primarily from Haiti, comprise up to 33 percent.

Through labor rights training, legal assistance to address rights violations and technical assistance for union organizing and collective bargaining, the Solidarity Center works to strengthen the capacity of unions to represent and protect workers in apparel production, the service industry, telecommunications, tourism and the informal economy. The Solidarity Center also works with Dominican unions to ensure their leadership reflects the workforce, which is increasingly comprised of women, youth and migrant workers.

Court Orders Dominican Republic to Recognize Citizenship. October 23, 2014— The Inter-American Court for Human Rights ordered the Dominican Republic to reform all national laws blocking the recognition of citizenship for children of undocumented parents born in the country.

Dominican Republic Plan for Migrants Rife with Irregularities. September 5, 2014—The Dominican Republic’s “regularization” plan—created to provide legal status to migrants with documents—is rife with “irregularities,” according to Alexis Roselie, spokeswoman for the National Coordinator for Immigration Justice and Human Rights.

July 30: First-Ever World Day against Human Trafficking
. July 30, 2014—The United Nations today marks the first-ever World Day against Trafficking in Persons, created to raise awareness and highlight the plight of the millions of women, men and children who are trafficked and exploited, as well as to encourage people to take action to end the scourge.

Dominican Citizenship Ruling Creates Stateless Underclass.
March 25, 2014—A new AFL-CIO and Solidarity Center report describes the potential consequences of a September 2014 Dominican Republic court ruling that retroactively strips individuals who are unable to prove their parents’ regular migration status of their citizenship.

Dominican Unions Rally to Oppose Proposed Labor Code. March 7, 2014—Chanting, “No to Labor Code rollbacks, no to human rights rollbacks,” 100 workers today marched on the Business Tower in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic capital, to oppose corporate-backed attempts to weaken labor code protections for working women and men.

Solidarity Center Fact Sheet on 2013 Dominican Republic Citizenship law. February 2014.

Protests Continue Against Dominican Republic Citizenship Ruling. January 27, 2014—The Dominican Republic and Haiti remain in talks regarding a Dominican Republic court ruling last September that retroactively revokes the citizenship of all Dominicans born in the country to undocumented parents as far back as 1929.

AFL-CIO Letter to Dominican President Danilo Medina. December 16, 2013—AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote to Dominican President Danilo Medina Sanchez regarding a recent decision to strip citizenship from Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Dominican Republic: Domestic Workers' Long Campaign for Rights. June 14, 2013—Workers this week are marking the second anniversary of the historic passage of a global standard covering the rights of domestic workers.

Dominican Unions Say Government Fails to Support Migrant Rights. February 15, 2013—The National Confederation of Labor Unity (CNUS) and its member unions and federations called on the Dominican Republic government to respect the human and labor rights of Haitian migrant workers in the country and to put an end to human trafficking.

New Laws Would Grant Social Protections to 300,000 Dominican Domestic Workers. July 9, 2012—Two groundbreaking pieces of legislation are poised to bring 300,000 domestic workers in the Dominican Republic into the national social security system, providing them for the first time with a minimum wage, health care, pension and other social protections to which formally employed Dominican workers are entitled.
Solidarity Center Publication  

Learn More
  • ITUC 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights in the Dominican Republic English/ Spanish)
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