The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Haitian Workers Force Back Big Business

Dec 11, 2017

In Haiti, companies withhold workers’ income tax, like in the U.S. Over the last year, workers in the industrial park in the capital Port au Prince fought to eliminate this tax for workers earning the minimum wage. The government retreated! The comrades of the Organization of Revolutionary Workers – called OTR because of its initials in French – were always at the workers’ side. Following is an article from their newspaper, Workers’ Voice.

Thousands of workers rose up as one to protest when the bosses imposed the income tax. The scrooges and their lackeys did not expect this virtually instantaneous reaction!

After the protests, the government reformed the tax. It raised the cut-off income from $950 a year (60,000 gourdes in the Haitian currency) to $1,900 a year (120,000 gourdes). This new floor means almost all workers at the outsourced factories do not have to pay the income tax. A hard year’s work doesn’t even earn them $1,900! At the minimum wage of $5.55 per day, they earn $1,332 a year in the best circumstances.

First workers in Sonapi Industrial Park factories #11 through #17 went on strike, stopping work for more than eight days. They held firm in spite of pressure from management. At factory #34, the workers struck for half a day. In #52 and #53, the workers did not go out on strike but showed their anger by taking apart some chairs. At #41 and #42, the WILBES plants, workers threatened to strike. They gave out leaflets against management and called for unity to oppose the bosses’ greed.

Two weeks into the movement, and faced with the workers’ strong determination, finally one boss after another gave in. Management in factories #11 through #17 agreed to stop withholding the income tax from the workers’ pay. Plus the bosses were forced to pay the workers for the days they were on strike! And at factories #34, #41, and #42, the bosses didn’t dare to deduct the tax from paychecks.

On the Tuesday the workers went back to work, a worker satisfied with the outcome of the struggle said, “We found the effective method of fighting the bosses: to strike all the workplaces, the general strike. Our working conditions and standard of living would not be as low as they are today if we had used this method earlier as the main way to fight against these leeches.”