May 23, 2016
This article appeared in the May 20th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
On May 12, the Haitian Employers Association published a statement against “barbarous and terrorist acts” that occurred the day before in the Sonapi industrial zone in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. The same day, the government Minister of Social Affairs and Labor said a decree to raise the minimum wage would be published as soon as possible, bringing it to 300 gourdes ($5.65) for eight hours of work.
This is the response of the bosses and the Haitian government to the workers, who on May 11th had a strike and demonstrated in the thousands in the industrial zone, demanding a minimum wage of 500 gourdes ($9.42) per day.
This demonstration brought together all the workers in the industrial zone following a series of partial actions. For months, the workers fought in several factories of the zone against various consequences of exploitation: excessive work loads, food poisoning in the factory, wage theft, abuse and disciplinary firings, the theft of vacations, etc. But the question of wages was acute everywhere and united all the workers.
At the Fete of Lutte Ouvrière, comrades of the Revolutionary Workers Organization of Haiti gave this example: A worker in the zone earns $3.84 a day. To get to work and eat and drink something costs $3.40. There would only remain 44 cents a day to help his family live. In these conditions, a number of workers in the zone organized for weeks to demand the wage of 500 gourdes ($9.42) and a lowering of the price of staples.
While a demonstration was prepared for May 1st to put forth these demands, the government’s Supreme Wage Council announced that on that day the wage would rise to 300 gourdes ($5.65). The workers continued with their demonstration, which was a success, and expected their coming pay to prove it. But no boss paid the 300 gourdes a day wage. This is what gave rise to the May 11th demonstration.
The reaction of the bosses was true to form: arrogant, abusive, lying and stupid. The fact that the government once again promised to raise wages shows that it fears the force of the working class. In fact, while many social groups suffer and there exists an immense mass of the deprived, the working class can find itself at the head of a general revolt.