Haiti: Textile Workers Demand Higher Wages

Image credit: REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

Imagine: a country with an inspiring history of revolt and resistance, caught in the claws of capitalist parasites. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before. This time around, these parasites have well-known names: Gap, Levi Strauss, Nike. These companies make billions in profits, and pay textile workers in Haiti a mere five hundred gourdes (equivalent to $4.86) for every 9 hours of work in their factories.

On Feb. 17, following weeks of strikes, thousands of Haitian textile workers took to the streets to demand a one thousand gourde ($9.72) raise. This peaceful protest was quickly met with intense repression by the police. While workers danced, chanted, and raised tree-branches to symbolize their nonviolence, the police responded with tear gas and beatings – clearly representing the interests of the big capitalists who feared losing their cheap labor force.

However, after weeks of protesting, the government approved broad wage increases for all workers. Textile workers got a wage increase of 34%, which brings their wages to just below $7.50 per day – way below the demand of the workers and the union. Although the gains are less than a livable wage, workers are proving where their power lies, demonstrating just the beginning of what they can accomplish when they come together and fight for their rights.