For Immediate Release: December 2, 2013
End Wage Theft in Haiti’s Assembly Factories
US Civil, Human and Labor Rights Groups Call on North American Corporations to
Respect Haiti’s Legal Minimum Wage
Washington, DC: Civil, human and worker rights organizations expressed their deep concern about systematic wage theft in Haiti’s garment assembly factories today. In a letter addressed to North American apparel companies Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF and Walmart, the organizations called for respect of Haiti’s legal minimum wage – less than $7/day – and back pay for workers who have been denied their legally earned wages.
TransAfrica’s President Nicole Lee highlighted the broad spectrum of groups that have united to condemn the practice of wage theft: “Haitian workers are already the lowest paid in our hemisphere. In light of the fact that the U.S. and others have contributed earthquake relief money to construct new assembly factories, and the corporations are already receiving preferential treatment under U.S. trade legislation, it is truly unconscionable that most workers are being deprived of one-third of their legally-earned wages.”
The signers welcomed the news that in light of the findings of the Worker Rights Consortium about minimum wage violations, Gildan, North America’s largest t-shirt company, and Fruit of the Loom have committed to ensure that workers in the factories where their apparel is assembled are making the legal minimum wage. They have also agreed to engage directly with worker organizations about remediating unpaid wages due to non-compliance with Haiti’s minimum wage.
Haiti’s minimum wage was raised to 300 gourdes, or about $.82 an hour, because the former minimum of 200 gourdes was considered starvation wages. Even at 300 gourdes a day, workers do not make enough to pay for transport and food for their families. Despite the efforts to increase wages, the Worker Rights Consortium concluded that nearly all Haitian factory workers are being robbed of 1/3 of the legal minimum wage.
As the letter states:
“The truth is that North American apparel companies have been complicit in the exploitation of Haitian workers - the most vulnerable in our hemisphere - by refusing to require their supplier factories to pay these workers the country’s legal minimum wage.”
Among the one hundred and ten signers of the letter are leading civil rights organizations: TransAfrica, Black Leadership Forum, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, A. Philip Randolph Institute, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, as well as a large number of human rights and Haiti-focused organizations including the Haiti Support Project, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, and Haitian labor rights groups. Faith-based signers include the Mennonite Central Committee, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, and many more.
Read the letter to Apparel Brands and Retailers Sourcing from Haiti here.