Violence broke out on Wednesday, February 23, as Haitian police opened fire on garment workers demonstrating for higher wages and killed a reporter, according to witness reports. Two other reporters were injured at the scene in Port-au-Prince.
Maxihen Lazzare, who worked for Haitian media group Roi des Infors, died of his wounds at a hospital on Wednesday. Haitian police responded to Lazzare’s death in a press release saying they are launching an investigation and that the police are implicated.
The union coalition released a statement denouncing Wednesday’s violence and condemning “the kind of conspiracy of the police and employers to block the mobilization to force us to accept a minimum wage that cannot meet our needs so that they can continue to suck blood and exploit workers.”
Protests have been ongoing since Haitian workers staged a peaceful demonstration calling for an increase in the minimum wage earlier this month. In January, a coalition of nine trade unions issued an open letter to the prime minister seeking a minimum wage increase from 500 gourdes (about $4.82 a day) to 1,500 gourdes ($14.62). They noted that wages have been stagnant for years while the increasingly high cost of living and rising inflation were eroding workers’ ability to live with dignity.
In response to garment worker demands, the government mandated a new minimum wage earlier this week, bumping pay to about $6.53 a day.
In 2019, the Solidarity Center conducted a wage assessment, with Haitian workers and their unions, and found that garment worker wages then covered less than a quarter of the estimated cost of living.
Unions around the world are pushing back against anti-union violence. Earlier this month labor leaders from several countries stood against anti-union violence in Mexico.