The Spark

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

Haiti:
A Strike in Port-au-Prince

Jun 8, 2015

This article was translated from the May 15 edition of La Voix des Travailleurs (The Workers’ Voice), the newspaper of the Organization of Revolutionary Workers of Haiti (OTR). It is about a movement of workers at GMC, one of the factories of the Apaid family of Port-a-Prince, one of the rich bourgeois families that own 80 percent of the country’s wealth. They got their money above all through the exploitation of workers in the sub-contracted textile industry.

At the end of April and the beginning of May, the workers at GMC started to fight against their boss’s attempt to avoid paying end-of-contract penalties he owed them for almost ten years of work. For the workers, this represented a chance to see between 15 and 20,000 gourds (three months salary, or between 300 and 400 dollars) at one time.

But the boss didn’t want to pay the penalties – for him, the new contract erased his responsibility to pay. He began to call together groups of workers to pressure them into signing a new contract. During lunch breaks, during work, and at quitting time, this was the main topic of conversation among the workers. They increasingly saw that they had to organize together against the boss. Every afternoon after work, they met to discuss together the best ways of fighting.... The number of participants in these meetings grew from 50 to 100, 200, and one day almost 1,000 workers. In these meetings, they voted for a 24-hour warning strike on April 23.

This was a historic day for these workers but also for the working class, showing that through their fights and their determination they could impose a right that the bosses had stomped on for ages: the right to strike.

Soon, the bosses went on the offensive. Two days after the strike, April 25, the news broke that the head of the factory had brought the president of the union to his office and had interrogated him for hours about the movement. Immediately in response, the workers left their machines to meet in the middle of the workplace. The head of the union explained what had happened to him in the boss’s office. The atmosphere in the factory was electric, and the workers stayed mobilized, away from their machines, until 4:00, the usual quitting time.

On Monday, April 27, the boss attached a note to the door announcing that the factory was closed.

This started a week of struggle and mobilization of the workers. They stayed in front of the factory and stopped strike breakers from entering.

Finally, at the end of the week, the boss retreated. Though he continued to threaten the active workers, he abandoned the idea of pressuring the workers to sign the new contract and agreed to take them all back to work.