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Exploited Labor: News & Updates

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Father Ernesto Cardenal was an early supporter of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which was founded in the early 1960s, named after Augusto César Sandino, the revolutionary who had led a guerrilla campaign against the U.S. occupation of Nicaragua in the 1920s and ’30s and was assassinated in 1934. “Christ led me to Marx,” Father Cardenal said in an interview in 1984. “I don’t think the pope understands Marxism. For me, the four gospels are all equally communist. I’m a Marxist who believes in God, follows Christ, and is a revolutionary for the sake of his kingdom.” In 2015 he told The New York Times: “The Bible is full of revolutions. The prophets are people with a message of revolution. Jesus of Nazareth takes the revolutionary message of the prophets. And we also will continue trying to change the world and make revolution. Those revolutions failed, but others will come.”
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30 NYC-based religious leaders, from Brooklyn to the Bronx, have publicly released a powerful letter in support of the resolution calling on Wendy’s to join the Fair Food Program. These revered religious leaders — whose guidance reaches thousands upon thousands of people of faith each week, and whose moral appeal resounds from pulpits and bimas and lecterns across the city — root their eloquent call for farm labor justice in the personal experience many have had over the years with the Immokalee workers’ struggle, and with the campaign to bring Wendy’s into the award-winning social responsibility program
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In early 2019, after an international pressure campaign led by the International Labor Rights Forum and Fair World Project, Fyffes seemed to relent, agreeing to talk with the union and reinstate some workers allegedly fired in retaliation. But since then, the union says Fyffes has backtracked, refused to recognize the union, and instead supported parallel company-backed unions. This is meant to preempt militant unions like STAS from establishing themselves as representatives of the temporary workers, who make up 90 percent of the workforce. “The formation of those organizations was part of a pattern of anti union violence against STAS,” says the union’s general secretary, Moises Sanchez, in a phone interview with The Progressive from Honduras, conducted via a translator. “And the reason that they recognized those unions was not because they are a good farm or a good multinational corporation. What we want are exclusive bargaining rights for the temporary workers on the farms who don’t have a voice or a vote to improve their working conditions.”
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A union leader in Honduras could be imprisoned for 30 years on bogus charges, pending a decision at a trial on Jan 22. Moises Sanchez is the Secretary General of the STAS union on Fyffes' melon farms in Honduras, where he worked from 1993 until 2016, when he was blacklisted for his union activity. In 2017, Moises was kidnapped, viciously attacked and threatened with death if he did not abandon the union fight. Moises is a resident of La Permuta, a small community that had no road access and people had to cross rivers to get to the closest city, Choluteca. In 2018, La Permuta’s village assembly voted to build a road. The mayor of the municipality, Santa Ana de Yusguare, agreed with the effort and told them the land was public land. Nearly two years later, a private landowner has come forward saying the land was hers and pressed charges for ‘criminal usurpation.’ Over a number of years, this landowner has leased other properties she owns to the Fyffes company.
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President-elect Alejandro Giammattei took office yesterday in Guatemala City. Giammattei comes to the presidency backed by a group of hard-line former military officers reportedly associated with the sector that opposed the peace process that ended Guatemala’s 36-year civil war. Many are also associated with industries that extract resources from rural communities – often with US, Canadian and European investment – a sector Giammattei has pledged to promote. In one of CICIG’s first prosecutions, on August 9, 2010 an arrest warrant was issued against Giammattei on charges of extrajudicial execution related to violent deaths in the Pavon prison on September 25, 2006 while he was the National Director of the Penitentiary System. His then assistant and three police officers were arrested that day, but Giammattei, apparently alerted, had requested political asylum days before in Honduras’ embassy in Guatemala. His request was denied, so on August 13, 2010 he was taken into detention on the Mariscal Zavala military base.

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