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Exploited Labor: News & Updates
March 31, 2021
The high risks attached to labour organising in Colombia have once again been emphasised with the murder of yet another trade unionist, as the country remains by far the most dangerous in the world for those in the role. On Monday 29 March 2021, Carlos Vidal was shot dead while walking his dog near his home in Florida, Valle del Cauca. Carlos was the president of the SINTRACOS union for sugar industry workers and a member of the CGT trade union centre. He was also known for his community activism. Following on from at least 20 murders of trade unionists in 2020, the latest case is at least the fourth this year.
March 30, 2021
Wesent letters to the president and attorney general of Colombia about the assassinations of social leaders (as well as other human rights crimes) that occurred during the last week of March. Those killed include: (1) Carlos Andrés Bustos Cortes, a former FARC combatant enrolled in the reincorporation process. Puerto Asis, Putumayo. March 23 2021. (2) Carlos Alberto Vidal, president of SINTRACOS sugar workers union. Flórida, Valle del Cauca Department. March 29 2021. (3) José Santos López, 54-year-old Awá indigenous leader, and Jhon Edwar Martínez, a 22-year-old Awá indigenous man. Tumaco, Nariño Department. March 29 2021. We echo the call by the United Nations Mission in Colombia, urging “the implementation of concrete measures for the comprehensive protection of all communities as well as the strengthening of security guarantees in the territories affected by the violence.”
March 19, 2021
According to payment vouchers for the current melon season for companies of Fyffes in Honduras, they are not paying the minimum wage which was decreed for the agriculture sector in 2020. In April 2020, International Labor Rights Forum, Fair World Project, and the International Union of Food Workers published a report alleging ongoing labour rights violations faced by 6,500 workers on Fyffes’ melon plantations in Honduras since 2016. Abuses detailed in the report include toxic chemical exposure, wage theft, union busting and poor working conditions made more unsafe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Fyffes is the top importer of melons to the United States, which are sold in major supermarkets across the country. In 2019, Costco and Whole Foods stopped buying Fyffes' Honduran melons due to the ongoing allegations.
March 13, 2021
More than two months of a hunger strike have wreaked havoc on the health of Florenzi apparel factory workers, so they decided to break their strike and celebrate the progress in their case. For the Florenzi Women's Collective, it all began last July, when, after being dismissed without justification, they took over the factory where they assemble medical gowns and blouses. After the first month without eating solid food, workers were finally given an audience with El Salvador’s Minister of Labor, Rolando Castro. Then on March 10 they met with Judge Daisy Abrego, from the First Court of Labor Justice, to begin the process of investigating their claims. "We feel victorious. The strike is stopped, but the struggle and the taking of Florenzi we maintain," said José Rivas. He and co-worker Nuria Martínez maintained their hunger strike for 64 days. Workers say that although they have stopped the hunger strike, they will continue their struggle to ensure that their rights are met. Among other grievances, workers report that the company, Industrias Florenzi, did not pay four months of salary owed to the 210 employees, nor the legally required severance pay, vacation pay, or bonuses.
March 10, 2021
Alternative Trade Organizations (such as Equal Exchange) have foundational influence in the broader fair trade movement but have become isolated from even their most natural allies including co-ops, citizen movements, community economic organizations, unions, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The monthly Food Action Forum meetings allow all of us to connect, build community, and have space to push our campaigns forward and engage in actions out in our local communities. In today’s overwhelmingly digital world we want to find ways to create meaningful and deep connections with this community, connections that are two-way, connections that are active, not passive. Join us as we work together to build a democratic brand that connects small farmers in the Global South to consumers in the Global North.
Exploited Labor: Right-wing Central American leaders praise neoliberal ‘Biden Plan’ to strengthen US ‘sphere of influence’
March 8, 2021
Right-wing Central American politicians are applauding Plan Biden, a US strategy promising corporate investment in return for neoliberal reforms. They pledge to remain in the US “sphere of influence” and isolate China and Russia, while calling for regime change against Nicaragua’s leftist government. Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal investigated the extensive damage that Biden’s neoliberal policies have already wreaked on Central America, when he served as vice president and the point man for the region in the Barack Obama administration. Now that he is president, Biden is repurposing the Obama-era policies and expanding them.
March 4, 2021
“Women Organized in Resistance” reads the banner hanging on the wall behind these women textile workers who are making their struggle very public. Draped over the table where they sit is another banner: “Together We Break the Chains.” Rina Vargas explains what’s going on: “Today marks the 55th day of the hunger strike and we can affirm that the Salvadoran State and the institutionality that it defends so much has failed the working class. The constitution of the republic is used at the convenience of economic power, the foreign-owned companies are defended, but thousands of workers who produce wealth in this country are abandoned.”
February 26, 2021
Teacher unions are staging protests in Bogota today over unfulfilled government agreements and to call for safe conditions in order to return to classes following school closures due to the pandemic. Teachers will stage a rally outside the Ministry of Education, where they will present a series of conditions over the reopening of schools.
February 25, 2021
Widespread violence continued to impact Colombia’s most vulnerable and marginalised communities and social groups in 2020, according to the annual report on the country by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report also found alarming levels of inequality, with women badly affected, and lack of access to essential services, with some regions lacking clean water and medical care. In many instances, the Colombian state has failed to address security and humanitarian concerns, particularly in regions long impacted by conflict, structural poverty and historic state abandonment. The global pandemic also impacted on the human rights of the population. Among its recommendations, the OHCHR prioritised full implementation of the peace agreement in addressing the endemic violence which has claimed hundreds of lives since late 2016.
February 25, 2021
On July 1, 2020, more than 200 workers were fired from the Industrias Florenzi textile factory without receiving salaries, bonuses, or full severance payments (as required by law). A few days after the dismissals, factory personnel took over the facilities where the hunger strikers continue to demand justice. Many unions and other organizations in El Salvador are supporting this feminist struggle and are offering the former workers workshops on labor rights, gender, education and sexual health. Some say it has helped them empower themselves personally and in their work cause.