In Nicaragua, the Solidarity Center works with unions in the agriculture, apparel, telecommunications and tourism sectors, conducting worker education and outreach to build new unions and train working women to gain leadership skills.

Although poverty in Nicaragua has declined in recent years, it remains the second poorest nation in the hemisphere, after Haiti. Despite the prosperity promised by the 2005 U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, Nicaragua has the lowest per capita income and lowest minimum wage in Central America.

The difficult economic environment for working people is compounded by employers who often illegally fire workers when they seek to form a union. Rather than enforcing freedom of association, government officials do not aggressively pursue such cases, which generally result in severance pay, rather than reinstatement, for fired employees.

Although unionization remains low, unions have made important advances. In the banana and agricultural sectors, for instance, Solidarity Center allies have achieved historic collective bargaining agreements through training, mentoring and legal support. Workers at all seven banana plantations in Nicaragua’s Chinangeda region, where employers refused to negotiate with workers for up to 16 years, are now covered by collective bargaining agreements with FETDECH and the Association of Rural Workers (ATC). And, as a result of Solidarity Center-sponsored leadership development training programs focused on gender, women now hold half or the majority of leadership positions in recently-formed unions.

As tourism becomes a larger part of Nicaragua’s economy, the Solidarity Center has been working with the food, beverage and hotel union, FUTATSCON, to build on the federation’s advances in organizing new unions and negotiating collective bargaining agreements. Due to worker poverty and scarce resources, most unions in Nicaragua cannot afford the organizing staff vital to educate workers and grow their unions. The Solidarity Center trains, mentors and provides direct support for union organizers to reach out to and educate non-unionized workers on their labor rights. In addition, the Solidarity Center provides legal support for workers who face rights violations or reprisals, supporting access to justice and the rule of law in cases that would otherwise go unanswered.