In Guatemala, the Solidarity Center works to end discrimination on the job, help women and indigenous workers become strong union leaders, end impunity for violence against union activists, and push for strong labor laws.
|Slain dockworker Pedro Zamora's mother lays flowers on his grave.
Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists. A 36-year armed struggle in Guatemala that ended in 1996 has left a legacy of violence, corruption, and lawlessness that still permeates every level of society and governance. Although Guatemala, as a member of the International Labor Organization, is committed to uphold and respect freedom of association, union activists are illegally fired, threatened, attacked, and murdered, while the perpetrators of the crimes go unpunished. In addition, unions are weakened by labor laws that restrict union membership and the right to strike.
In the workplace, women are discriminated against. They are paid less than their male counterparts and are harassed and sexually assaulted. At home, the violence continues. Indigenous, rural, migrant, and domestic workers also are mistreated, and the government turns its eyes away from widespread violations of child labor laws. Guatemala also is a source, transit zone, and destination for human trafficking.
Enabled by global and regional trade agreements, employers routinely move their production across borders to minimize labor costs and bust union organizing campaigns. Manufacturing and processing plants are sweatshops, where workers’ demands for decent wages and working conditions are ignored.
Guatemala: Global Action Needed to End Murders of Union Members.
February 1, 2013—Since 2007, 64 trade unionists have been murdered in Guatemala, and hundreds more union leaders and members have been kidnapped, tortured and threatened with death—all part of an ongoing pattern of violations against worker rights, according to Britain’s Trade Union Congress (TUC). Only a small fraction of these incidents have been investigated, and 98 percent of these crimes have not been punished.
INTERVIEW: Guatemalan Aluminum Workers Describe Abuse.
October 11, 2012—When Emeterio Nach suffered a shoulder injury at his job, he asked his supervisor at the Ternium aluminum processing plant in Villa Nueva, Guatemala, for time off to see his doctor. After the supervisor denied his request, Nach asked again. The supervisor continued to refuse, finally telling Nach he would be fired if he kept asking—and would be fired if he were sick because the factory needed healthy workers.
Workers from around the World File Complaint with the ILO Urging Guatemala to Respect the Right of Freedom of Association.
June 18, 2012—Guatemala is among the worst violators of worker rights in the world today, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Workers are routinely fired for asserting their rights at work, and increasingly, they are threatened, tortured, or murdered.
SITRABI Target of Deadly Anti-Union Repression in Guatemala.
February 10, 2012—Miguel Angel González Ramírez, a member of the Izabal banana workers’ union SITRABI, was killed on February 5. He was shot several times while carrying his young child in his arms.
Five Guatemalan Banana Workers Killed over Last Six Months.
November 1, 2011—Amid a climate of violence and impunity in Guatemala, five banana workers have been murdered since the beginning of April 2011. Their deaths have shattered their families, their communities, and their unions.
Guatemala: Another SITRABI Member Assassinated.
October 13, 2011—The International Trade Union Confederation has joined with its Guatemalan affiliates, the CUSG, CGTG, and UNSITRAGUA, in condemning the murder of Henry Anibal Marroquin Orellana, a member of the Izabal banana workers’ union SITRABI, on September 24 in the municipality of Amates, in the department of Izabal.
Guatemala: Two More Women Workers Killed.
August 3, 2011—The delegates at the II Conference against Impunity in Guatemala, convened by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and its Guatemalan affiliates and held July 21-22 in Guatemala City, have condemned and expressed grave concern at the killings of two women, members of the national front for the defense of public services and natural resources, FNL, who have paid with their lives for their outstanding commitment to the fight waged alongside the Guatemalan people.
Killings of Trade Union Activists Continue in Guatemala.
June 2, 2011—Yet another trade union leader has been brutally murdered in Guatemala for exercising his union activities. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and its affiliated organizations in Guatemala, the CUSG, CGTG, and UNSITRAGUA, have firmly condemned the assassination of Idar Joel Hernández Godoy, finance secretary of the Izabal banana workers’ union SITRABI, affiliated with the CUSG.
Guatemala: Violence against Campesinos Continues.
May 27, 2011—Renewed attacks have been seen against campesinos in Guatemala. The International Trade Union Confederation has joined with its Guatemalan affiliates, the CUSG, CGTG, and UNSITRAGUA, in strongly condemning the murder of Oscar Reyes and the serious wounds inflicted on five other campesinos in the communities of Agua Caliente and El Sauce Inup, in Panzos, Alta Verapaz.
Farm Workers Massacred in Guatemala.
May 18, 2011—The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has joined with Guatemala’s trade union as well as indigenous and campesino organizations in strongly condemning the massacre that took place between May 14 and 15 at the Finca Los Cocos farm in the municipality of La Libertad, in which 29 campesinos, including two women and three minors aged 13, 15, and 16, were murdered.
Fighting for Worker Rights in Guatemala.
The Solidarity Center's report, Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Guatemala
, investigates the ongoing assault on worker rights in a country where the vestiges of colonialism and more than three decades of civil war are contributing to corruption and the brutal repression of workers. At the report launch, held on June 15, 2009, at the AFL-CIO in Washington, DC, a group of expert panelists gave their perspectives on the past, present, and future of worker rights in Guatemala.
Guatemalan Dockworkers Reinstated as Global Unions Push for Probe into Leader's Murder.
Unions around the world are putting pressure on the Guatemalan government to investigate the brutal murder of Pedro Zamora, General Secretary of the Dockworkers Union, STEPQ of Guatemala. Zamora was gunned down on Monday, January 15, by unknown assailants using methods reminiscent of those used by paramilitary forces during Guatemala’s armed conflict.
Solidarity Center Joins Global Call to End Impunity Now in Guatemala.
Guatemala, one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists, was the site of an international conference on unions’ role in the fight against impunity. In 2007, four Guatemalan union leaders were killed for their union activities.
Related Solidarity Center Publications
- Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Guatemala (2008) analyzes the overwhelming challenges that Guatemalan workers face in one of the most dangerous countries for trade unionists: crushing poverty, ethnic divisions, political fragmentation, and deeply rooted violence that has led to a culture of impunity.