The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

A Strike and Factory Occupation

Dec 11, 2023

We publish below two articles from the Workers Voice (number 311, November 24, 2023) newspaper of the Organization of Haitian Workers (OTR). These articles describe a strike and factory occupation at Premium Apparel, a subcontracting company owned by the Apaid family.

Apaid Family: Crooked Bosses Face Workers Revolt!

Last Thursday, November 9, around 9 a.m., the management of the Premium factory, owned by the Apaid family, announced the permanent closure of the company. The workers’ anger bubbled over, and they stopped work immediately to demand immediate payment for the last two weeks of work, legal benefits, and compensation.

Clifford Apaid, the boss of Premium, accompanied by his father, André Apaid, thought that the announcement would sail by the angry workers, but they had an unpleasant surprise.

The two crooks, father and son, had to spend the entire day and sleepless night on site in a tense and electric atmosphere. They thus had the opportunity to get to know the excited workers better! Chanting their demands, workers massed in front of all the exit doors, standing guard and preventing the two thug bosses from fleeing. Upset and panicked, these bosses were glued to the telephone to call the police.

For their part, the workers forgot hunger, thirst, and sleep. Overexploited during the day in these subcontracting companies, living in shanty towns plagued by gang violence, starved by these bosses who pay them poverty wages, these workers never know happy days—they were white hot with anger and determined to get what they were owed.

From 9 a.m. on Thursday until 4 a.m. on Friday, the workers, the majority of them women, continued to mobilize non-stop within the factory grounds, demanding their due before they would leave the factory. Around 5 a.m., the big artillery came: a police armored vehicle entered the courtyard by force after breaking down the main barrier. Among the police, a judge came to ask the workers to let the two exhausted detainees leave.

This is already a first victory for the workers! It is moral and psychological! The time when bosses could get away with anything is over. Thanks to their constant struggles—work stoppages, strikes, mobilization and demonstrations for several days in a row—the working class has visibly acquired class consciousness and combativeness. The class struggle is no longer one-way. Faced with the greed and arrogance of the bosses, workers understand more and more that they must rely only on themselves, on their strengths and their struggles. This is indeed the path to their emancipation!

Strike and Organized Factory Occupation

More than a hundred Premium Apparel workers spontaneously decided to occupy the factory, keeping the boss and some factory shareholders with them. The objective was to increase the pressure in order to obtain satisfaction for their demands. A form of struggle and conscious mobilization of workers, which thereby joins the various forms of protest that the history of the international workers’ movement has experienced.

The night of November 9 to 10, 2023 will appear in the list of examples where workers, during their struggle, took control of their factory for one or more days. After the allegiance of factory security guards, Premium Apparel workers were given control of all doors. Inside, no place was forbidden to them. Workers could assemble freely to organize their protests. They made signs with their demands; they formed small groups to discuss among themselves while setting up a surveillance system to counter the police who were harassing them.

Although this form of protest, strike with factory occupation, is currently at an embryonic stage in the Haitian workers’ movement, there is nevertheless a growing tradition, particularly in the subcontracting sector.

In January 2022, Valdor workers, noticing that the managers had decided to close the factory without warning them, quickly rushed to the factory while alerting those who lived far away. They detained an executive caught trying to collect company files to flee to Sri Lanka.

During the Sewing International S.A. (SISA) strike in 2019, after the death of a worker deprived of care in an OFATMA center, workers occupied the factory on numerous occasions. Groups of workers kept vigil in the factory for several nights. It was a memorable experience for all the strikers and beyond.

Factory-occupied strikes, when planned, organized by all strikers in assemblies, can be a formidable weapon in the hands of workers in their struggle against their exploiters. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, workers built councils or soviets to organize the occupation of their factories. These councils constituted the laboratory where workers figured out the organization of the revolution.