In Haiti, the Solidarity Center works to strengthen workers’ organizing efforts through training, research, humanitarian assistance, and a cross-border solidarity network.
|Thousand of Haitian workers and their families lived in makeshift tents after the January 12, 2010, earthquake. Photo by Cathy Feingold
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has an estimated unemployment rate of 70 percent. Most Haitians work in the informal economy. Many sell prepaid cell phone cards, hawk prepared foods on the streets, or provide domestic service—low-paid, insecure jobs with no social protections. More than half earn just $1 a day, putting them well below the poverty line. Once-public services have been privatized, and food costs are so high that many families cannot afford even a plate of rice.
In 2008, Haiti was devastated by floods and hurricanes that left 1,000 dead and nearly a million homeless. Then in January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the capital, Port-au-Prince, killing hundreds and rendering more than 3 million homeless, without food or drinking water. The Solidarity Center has established an Earthquake Relief for Haitian Workers Fund.
Desperate to find work, Haitians stream across the border to the Dominican Republic, only to find themselves trapped in dangerous, degrading jobs. With no documentation, they are at the mercy of unscrupulous employers and corrupt officials, who force them into debt bondage, steal their wages, and deport them with no money to show for their hard labor.
The Solidarity Center works with established union federations, worker associations, and human rights organizations in Haiti to develop new strategies for protecting the rights of workers in both the formal and informal economy. In addition, the Solidarity Center works in the Dominican Republic with Haitian migrant workers and Dominican union federations. The Solidarity Center supports the following programs:
- Human and worker rights NGO AUMOHD provides the first free legal assistance to workers, enabling them to combat illegal firings. harassment, and employers’ non-compliance with the Haitian labor code. AUMOHD also conducts legal rights training workshops for factory workers.
- UACSH organizes new unions in the informal economy, including street vendors, domestic workers, auto mechanics, and others.
- Union federations conduct trainings on organizing, public policy, worker rights, and the environment, among other topics.
- Exchange programs enable Dominican and Haitian unions to share strategies for protecting worker rights. As a result of these exchanges, the first transnational informal economy worker network was created. The network conducts training and educational outreach to domestic workers and street vendors in both countries.
- The Solidarity Center and its partner, the Dominican labor federation CNUS, have reached out to Haitian construction workers in the Dominican Republic with surveys, trainings, and handouts in Creole, the native language of Haiti. CNUS affiliate FENTICOMMC, which represents construction workers, has pledged an all-out organizing effort, and affiliates in other industries are following suit.
Haitian Workers Speak out for Good Jobs.
February 26, 2013—Three years after the devastating 2010 earthquake, Haitian workers are organizing to ensure that foreign investment and infrastructure-targeted aid provide not just subsistence-level jobs, but decent work and a living wage for Haitians.
REPORT, January 16: Solidarity Center Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.
Following the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti, the Solidarity Center established a relief fund to route donations from U.S. unions and workers to Haitian workers and their families in need. The final report on these efforts, released on the third anniversary of the earthquake, describes how the Solidarity Center and its partners have made a significant impact in the lives of Haitian workers and their families.
Workers Helping Workers Recover and Rebuild.
January 16, 2013--Following the devastating January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti, the Solidarity Center established a relief fund to route donations from U.S. unions and workers to Haitian workers and their families in need. The final report on these efforts, released on the third anniversary of the earthquake, describes how the Solidarity Center and its partners have made a significant impact in the lives of Haitian workers and their families.
Three Years After Haiti Earthquake, Workers Still Need Decent Jobs.
January 11, 2012—Three years after the disastrous earthquake struck Haiti, workers and their families continue to struggle as the cost-of-living keeps rising while wages—for those who have jobs—remain the same. Informal discussions by Solidarity Center staff with Haitian export-processing workers this month indicate that in the past year, the cost of food and education has increased between 20 percent and 25 percent, while rent and transportation have risen between 15 percent and 20 percent.
Haiti's Workers Mark Quake Anniversary with Few Decent Jobs or a Living Wage.
January 11, 2012—Two years after a massive earthquake destroyed much of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding towns, the Haitian people are still struggling to recover from the disaster and the entrenched poverty that it has exacerbated.
Top Priority for Haitian Workers Is Decent Jobs.
May 25, 2011—More than a year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, there are no jobs, some 800,000 people are still living in squalid tent cities, many children do not attend school, and violence against women is on the rise. Nine of 10 Haitians lack access to basic services such as health care, education, transportation, housing, and drinking water. Billions of dollars pledged to rebuild Haiti are unspent.
Survey: Haitian Minimum Wage Does Not Cover Workers' Basic Costs.
March 3, 2011—Haiti and its people will have little opportunity to recover from last year’s earthquake or advance out of the persistent poverty that has plagued the nation without real efforts to create jobs that pay a living wage, says a snapshot cost-of-living study organized by the Solidarity Center. "The Haitian government's inability to help workers to earn sufficient wages perpetuates the cycle of poverty,” said Patrick Numas of the General Independent Organization of Haitian Workers.
Haitian Workers Share Their Stories.
A year after the Haiti earthquake, Solidarity Center consultant Osé Pierre spoke with three Haitian workers about their struggle to make ends meet. Here are their stories.
Solidarity in Action: Supporting Haitian Workers after the Earthquake.
One year ago, a massive earthquake shattered Haiti, violently disrupting the lives of more than a million people and killing more than 200,000. Workers in the island nation faced extraordinary challenges as they struggled to find loved ones, bury their dead, and secure shelter for their families amid the rubble. Today, their situation is brighter thanks to the generous contributions of more than 1,000 individuals and organizations to our Earthquake Relief for Haitian Workers Fund.
Haiti: Trade Union Brigades Fighting the Cholera Epidemic. Haiti’s cholera epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in seven regions. Unions have responded by launching an awareness campaign to stem the epidemic. For several months, 10 Haitian trade union organizations from all provinces have been working together to help put their country back on its feet. Determined to remain relentlessly active, they have set up rapid response teams, the “workers against cholera brigades.” Cross-posted from ITUC Online
Solidarity Center Publishes First Creole Translation of Haitian Labor Code. The January 2010 earthquake has increased Haitian workers’ vulnerability and subsequently intensified the need for legal mechanisms that ensure the enforcement of their fundamental labor rights. In response, the Solidarity Center and its partner, Action des Unités Motivés pour une Haïti de Droit (AUMOHD), recently published the first abridged Haitian Labor Code in Creole and will distribute it free of charge.
Solidarity Center's Cathy Feingold Named AFL-CIO International Department Director. Cathy Feingold, country program director for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, will succeed Barbara Shailor as director of the AFL-CIO’s International Department. Associate International Department Director Stanley Gacek will become Special Counsel for international labor law at the Solidarity Center.
Unions Demand Decent Work in Haiti Recovery Process. More than 120 trade unionists from all over the world, including many leaders representing the Haitian labor movement, attended an April 8-10 summit in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to explore the role of trade unions in the reconstruction of Haiti. “Decent work must be at the heart of any rebuilding effort in Haiti,” said the Solidarity Center’s Cathy Feingold.
Union-to-Union Relief Effort Supports Haitian Workers. Since the devastating January 12, 2010, earthquake in Port-au-Prince, the Solidarity Center has acted quickly to send needed supplies and support to its Haitian partners through a union-to-union effort that builds toward long-term reconstruction and strengthening of Haiti’s labor movement. Please donate now to the Solidarity Center’s Earthquake Relief for Haitian Workers campaign.
Survey Finds Human Trafficking, Debt Bondage Common in Dominican Republic. Haitian migrants who cross the border into the Dominican Republic for jobs in the construction industry are among the country’s most exploited workers, and many feel that union membership is the key path to decent work, according to a new survey developed by workers for workers with Solidarity Center support.
Solidarity Center Publications
CBTU Contributes $30,000 to Haiti Relief and Reconstruction.
- Ekstrè Kòd Travay La (Abridged Haitian Labor Code, in Creole, 2010)
- Unequal Equation: The Labor Code and Worker Rights in Haiti (2003). This report is based on interviews with leaders and activists from several trade unions, including ESPM-Batay Ouvriye (Entesendikal Premye Me Batay Ouvriye or First of May Federation-Workers’ Struggle) conducted in Haiti in 1999 and 2000. It documents widespread, serious violations of worker rights, analyzes the weakness of the Labor Code, and the negative impact on worker rights and living conditions of donor policies toward Haiti. It calls for “a labor law reform process that would integrate and serve the needs and priorities of workers in both the formal and informal economies.”
Demonstrating its strong commitment to Haiti’s reconstruction, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) donated $30,000 toward the Solidarity Center’s Earthquake Relief for Haitian Workers Fund.
Post-Earthquake Support for Exploited Haitian Migrant Workers. While addressing the February 3, 2010, President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons announced that the Solidarity Center would be playing an important role in helping Haitian migrant workers avert exploitative conditions in the wake of the recent earthquake.