Haiti

In Haiti, the Solidarity Center provides training and mentoring support for union organizing and advocacy campaigns and assists workers in building sustainable, democratic and inclusive unions.

Haiti was the first nation in the region to gain independence, the world’s first postcolonial independent black-led republic and the only country whose independence was successfully achieved through a slave rebellion. Yet Haiti today is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with more than 6 million of Haiti’s population of 10.4 million (59 percent) living below the national poverty line of $2.41 per day, and more than 2.5 million (24 percent) falling below the national extreme poverty line ($1.23 per day).

Nearly 38,000 Haitians remain displaced nine years after a catastrophic earthquake in 2010, which killed up to 300,000 people. The disaster exacerbated Haiti’s struggles with poverty, high unemployment, inflation, political instability and inadequate physical infrastructure and public services. In 2018, Haitians mobilized to demand accountability and transparency after more than a dozen former government officials and business owners were implicated in the misuse of billions of dollars from a Venezuelan oil program that was supposed to be used to rebuild the country after the earthquake.

Finding decent work in Haiti is a fundamental challenge. Nearly 65 percent of workers are engaged in informal economy jobs, and weak labor protections leave workers vulnerable to severe exploitation, such as low wages, dangerous working conditions and sexual harassment. The minimum wage is two to three times lower than the cost of living, with a liter of milk costing more than half the daily minimum wage. The resulting extreme poverty is exacerbated by increases in taxes and prices for gasoline, diesel and kerosene. In 2018, citizens waged protests after the government abruptly eliminated fuel subsidies, causing prices to escalate overnight. Public backlash prompted immediate suspension of the measure.

At the same time, workers face daunting obstacles when seeking to exercise their rights to better wages and working conditions. In the 2018 ITUC Global Rights Index, which rates 142 countries according to 97 internationally recognized indicators to assess the extent to which worker rights are protected in law and in practice, Haiti was found to systematically violate worker rights.

In Haiti’s export apparel industry—composed primarily of women and the largest source of formal economy jobs in Haiti—the Solidarity Center joins with unions to educate workers about their rights under national and international labor laws. The Solidarity Center also works with unions to mobilize workers to build and balance power, advocate for wage increases and improved labor laws, and connect with global allies to leverage support for fair labor standards and labor law compliance.

Driven by poverty, and sometimes the victims of labor trafficking, tens of thousands of Haitian migrant workers toil in neighboring Dominican Republic. There, with no contracts or proper documents, Haitians take dangerous, low-paying jobs in agriculture, construction and domestic service, and are sometimes trapped in forced labor. Child labor is also widespread, especially in the informal economy where children toil in domestic service, as market vendors and in agriculture and construction.