Haitian Activists on new US legislation to "help Haitians"

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Ezili Danto
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 11:57 pm

Haitian Activists on new US legislation to "help Haitians"

Post by Ezili Danto » Sun Dec 17, 2006 8:53 pm

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HLLN Press Release
December 16, 2006

For Further Information Contact:
Eugenia Charles at eugenia@fondasyonmapou.org
or Marguerite Laurent, Esq. at erzilidanto@yahoo.com




Haitian activists point out the lack of worker protection in the recently passed US trade legislation that adds a new provision to the Caribbean Basin Initiative, entitled the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE), which allows duty-free treatment for certain products from Haiti.

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Statement of Haitian Activists on the HOPE legislation passed by Congress
December 16, 2006:

Fondasyon Mapou, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN) and Democracy for Haiti do not support the Haiti trade provision (Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2006 (HOPE) that was part of the tax-and-trade bill passed by the 109th session of Congress before it adjourned for the New Year.

The Haiti provision was also strongly challenged by some Southern lawmakers, who said it would further erode jobs in their states' textile industries. However, Haitian activists' objections are on altogether different grounds.

HLLN, Fondasyon Mapou and Democracy for Haiti reject the legislation's Haiti provisions because it fails to imposes labor standards and imposes patronizing, and burdensome conditions on the Haitian people.

The newly passed HOPE Act makes Haiti eligible for new trade benefits, in addition to those it currently receives under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). Under current law, apparel imports from Haiti qualify for duty-free treatment only if they are made from U.S. or Haitian fabric. "The HOPE Act will also allow apparel imports from Haiti to enter the United States duty free if at least 50 percent of the value of inputs and/or costs of processing are from any combination of U.S. FTA and regional preference program partner countries. The quantity of apparel eligible for duty-free treatment under this provision is subject to a limit in the first year equivalent to 1% of overall U.S. apparel imports. This limit will expand gradually over five years, reaching 2% in the fifth year.

The Haiti provision also removes duties for three years on a specified quantity of woven apparel imports from Haiti made from fabric produced anywhere in the world. Finally, the HOPE Act will allow automotive wire harnesses imported from Haiti that contain at least 50% by value of materials produced in Haiti, U.S. FTA or regional preference program countries to qualify for duty-free treatment.

Although the undersigned Haitian activists welcomes the US bipartisan desire to assist Haiti with job creation that is evidenced by the passage of the legislation, we continue to denounce the legislation's neoliberal conditions that enrich only the few while further impoverishing the many; its failure to ensure labor standards, workers' rights, enforcement and employer accountability.

Background:

The Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2006 (HOPE), introduced by Congressman William Thomas of California is the same as the HERO Act. In 2004 this bill was introduced in the House of Representative by Congressman Conyers and the Senate by
Senator DeWine. We at HLLN, fondasyon Mapou and Democracy for Haiti, along with our Network partners abroad and in Haiti giving voice to the plight of voiceless Haitians, did not endorse it then, and we wish to reaffirm our position now that the legislation has been passed. HOPE was combined to follow the path of AGOA, a preferential treatment bill which supposedly should have worked wonders for the African economy. AGOA has done little for the African worker and domestic economy, so why will it be any different in Haiti. HOPE formerly known as HERO is its identical twin and the concept behind it remains the same.


This newly passed legislation amends the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (formerly the Caribbean Basin Initiative) that already provides for Haitian apparel to enter the U.S. duty free but on a temporary renewable basis. The Haiti (HOPE) Act makes the current duty free agreement permanent and subjects it to new onerous conditions. The HOPE legislation requires the U.S. president to certify to Congress that Haiti has established or is making progress in establishing a ‘free trade', market-based economy that rules out subsidies, price controls and government ownership of economic assets; that eliminates barriers to U.S. trade and investment by creating an environment conducive to foreign investment protecting intellectual property rights and resolving bilateral trade disputes.

In 2003 the Inter-American Dialogue organized the conference, which led to the language of the HERO Act; then, the stakeholders of HOPE had an opportunity to seek the input of Haitians workers. Unfortunately, none of the major Haitian unions' leaders were invited to voice the concerns of the workers; however, if Haitian workers had a chance to speak they would have most likely addressed some of the following issues and suggested that any trade agreement to help Haiti must include provisions to require that Haitian factory owners must:

  • Ø Respect and obey the local minimum wage laws

    Ø Have health care facility within the vicinity for workers usage

    Ø Respect workers' rights to join and/or form unions

    Ø Set reasonable and achievable quotas rate for workers daily

    Ø Establish an environment for workers to work in humane
    conditions

    Ø Not solicit sexual favors from workers in exchange for
    maintaining jobs

    Ø Not relocate Haitian peasants from fertile land in order to
    build factories

    Ø do an act of goodwill by building schools for the destitute
    children in the area where they do business

Recently Rep. Kendrick Meek of Florida was quoted in the Miami Herald saying that “the average Haitian garment worker earns $4 a day,” when in fact a Haitian factory worker's day consists of 10 hours of work for 70 gourdes per day, which is roughly $2 US dollars (current exchange rate is 37.50 gourdes to $1 US); a worker is not allowed to leave the factory until he/she has completed the quota for the day. The worker spends 30 gourdes on transportation and 15 gourdes on food per day. Overall a Haitian worker takes roughly 25 gourdes home. Garment workers get paid bi-weekly. Often time they have already borrowed from friends more than what they earn within the two weeks period in order to survive.



This HOPE legislation completely ignores the sweatshop conditions and well-documented employer abuses and exploitations endured by the Haitian workers. We want trade agreements that take labor standards, worker rights and enforcement seriously, not just tiny Haitian job creation trade agreements that benefits the wealthy Haitian employers while leaving Haitian workers in the same near-slavery working conditions, without union protections, labor standards, or that ignores how the Haitian factory owners oftentimes end up not even paying the Haitian workers their wages at all, even though Haiti already has the lowest wages in the
Western Hemisphere.

U.S. legislation purported to "help Haitians" must consider and provide for these realities and inequities, otherwise they are useless to helping the majority of Haitian workers and Haiti's best interests.


In essence, this so-called "HOPE" legislation will not assist the people of Haiti; it was drafted and promoted by factory owners for the benefit of the owners at the expense of the workers. Several labor unions in Haiti had rejected the bill, in its various forms, since its inception in 2003.

Therefore, Fondasyon Mapou, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN) and Democracy for Haiti herein give voice to the Haitian workers in rejecting this newly passed Haiti legislation or any other U.S. legislation that specifically ignores the plight of the majority of Haitian workers in Haiti vis-à-vis the sweatshop kingpins well-documented worker abuses.


Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
Fondasyon Mapou
Democracy for Haiti

Michel Nau_

Post by Michel Nau_ » Mon Dec 18, 2006 2:37 pm

[quote]HLLN, Fondasyon Mapou and Democracy for Haiti reject the legislation's Haiti provisions because it fails to imposes labor standards and imposes patronizing, and burdensome conditions on the Haitian people, and continue to denounce the legislation's neoliberal conditions that enrich only the few while further impoverishing the many; its failure to ensure labor standards, workers' rights, enforcement and employer accountability. [/quote] I believe that it's too early to start rejecting and imposing conditions now. Labor standards, workers' rights, enforcement and employer accountability are important thing for workers well being, but not urgent, all these things could come at a later time.
Manje a poko menm komanse qwit, nou gentan ap rele ke cuisinye yo pral fe koutay.
[quote]Fondasyon Mapou, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN) and Democracy for Haiti herein give voice to the Haitian workers in rejecting this newly passed Haiti legislation or any other U.S. legislation that specifically ignores the plight of the majority of Haitian workers in Haiti vis-à-vis the sweatshop kingpins well-documented worker abuses. [/quote] Fine!! Then what other alternatives do Fondasyon Mapou, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN) and Democracy for Haiti have for 8 million of Haitians who are jobless and starving?

Ezili wrote: [quote]Recently Rep. Kendrick Meek of Florida was quoted in the Miami Herald saying that “the average Haitian garment worker earns $4 a day,” when in fact a Haitian factory worker's day consists of 10 hours of work for 70 gourdes per day, which is roughly $2 US dollars (current exchange rate is 37.50 gourdes to $1 US);[/quote]
I don't know where you got these facts, but the reality is that some Haitians are dying from starvation and end up eating mud to survive. If I don't have money to feed my family, I will work for $2.00 a day.
It's less risky than being a kidnapper to make a living.
The economy is a matter of supply and demand.
The more job opportunities, the more the Haitians could decide what jobs to select that offer a better pay.

Pa blye ke sak ate se pou chien.
Si nou pa vle li, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, china, e lot ti peyi yo ap kouri pase pran job sa yo sou je nou la.

Gran neg ap rich sou tet malere se vre, min fok nou gen kouraj kouri deye Leta tou pou yo pase lwa ki pou proteje malere e mande met faktori sa yo pou yo mete, klinik, cafetería, e bon kondisyon travay pou employe yo tou.

Avek bon gouvernance, leta gen yon obligasyon pou mande propriete faktori sa yo pou kontribye a developman peyi a.

Michel

Michel Nau_

Post by Michel Nau_ » Tue Dec 19, 2006 2:22 pm

Jaf wrote: [quote]Haiti will once again lose millions of dollars because the few criminals that make our streets unsafe have discouraged most Haitian family reunions from taking place in Haiti. There is a reason for this hysteria. It is being fueled for political reasons.[/quote] What are the political reasons Jaf? One of these reasons could be the return of President Aristide.
Nap kontinye fe dezod nan peyi a toujou!! Se sa tande!

Jaf wrote: [quote]The Diaspora has contributed a lot to the current mayhem. Both in terms of the young criminals raised in New-York, Paris, Montreal etc... who are being deported as overflow from the Prison Industrial complex, but also the Diaspora has given us many house negroes who serve as obedient overseers from the foreign pimps.[/quote] The Diaspora has contributed to 2 majors categories of citizens, the criminals and the house negroes, and Jaf is definitely not a house negroe, so therefore….
Kontinye fe dezod toujou nan peyi a. Kontinye gate manje pep la toujou.
Min selman tou..jou va jou vyen.

Michel

Michel Nau_

Post by Michel Nau_ » Tue Dec 19, 2006 10:06 pm

Vye atik sa gen plis ke 2 zane,(2004) e w retounin vinn lagel la pou gate manje pep la.
W vle pep la kontinye ap manje la bou te pou satisfe ideoloji politik w.

An nou gade sa proje HOPE la ap pote pou pep la avan ke nou voye li jete.
Fe atansyon pou pa voye kivet dlo twalet a jete avek tout tibebe a ladan ni.

Michel

Ezili Danto
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 11:57 pm

Haiti gives aid to the US, not the other way around

Post by Ezili Danto » Sat Dec 23, 2006 5:13 pm

Michelnau,

This is an old article on the topic, written before the Senate passage but the last sentence is worthy of underlining. If as this article states: "..For every dollar sent to Haiti, one dollar and thirty-four cents comes back. " Then, who is giving aid to whom? With respect, I say, wake up, Michelnau, wake up!....Our people can no longer afford the mental colonization, the willful and selective amnesia of the so-called "schooled-Haitians."

  • Haiti Trade Bill Passes U.S. Congress
    US congress

    Hardbeatnews, WASHINGTON, DC, Mon. Dec. 12, 2006: A bill with the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the Haitian textile industry, has passed the U.S. House by a vote of 212 to 184.

    Under the proposed Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act, the country would be allowed to export more garments to the United States.

    Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek, who has been a major advocate for Haitian rights, lauded the measure, stating, “The HOPE bill has the potential to revive this sector of the Haitian economy by allowing apparel assembled in Haiti using third-country fabrics duty-free access to the United States market.”

    Meek had introduced The Haiti Economy Recovery Opportunity (HERO) bill, H.R. 4211, in the House in the 109th Congress but the bill never made it to the floor.

    The HOPE bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. But it is not without critics. The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition and the National Council of Textile Organizations called the concessions a "job-destroying lame-duck foreign trade package" while Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., threatened to block passage of the trade bill, saying it could endanger U.S. textile jobs."

    Still a study commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development found that the HOPE Act would have no adverse impact on manufacturers in the United States. In fact, Haiti is an important importer of American products ranging from rice and chickens to automobiles and computers. For every dollar sent to Haiti, one dollar and thirty-four cents comes back. – Hardbeatnews.com
(Emphasis Added)

Michel Nau_

Post by Michel Nau_ » Wed Dec 27, 2006 1:49 pm

Ezili wrote:[quote] This is an old article on the topic, written before the Senate passage but the last sentence is worthy of underlining. If as this article states: "...For every dollar sent to Haiti, one dollar and thirty-four cents comes back." Then, who is giving aid to whom? [/quote] Hardbeatnews.com[quote]Still a study commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development found that the HOPE Act would have no adverse impact on manufacturers in the United States. In fact, Haiti is an important importer of American products ranging from rice and chickens to automobiles and computers. For every dollar sent to Haiti, one dollar and thirty-four cents comes back. –[/quote] Ezili, you are right, we are giving back the one dollar foreign assistance received plus 34 to 50 cents more from our own economy.
Just like in this Spike Lee's movie, “Do the Right Thing” the owner of Sal's Pizza, Danny Aiello gives some pocket changes every morning to Ossie Davis who played “ Da Mayor”
The Pizza's owner son asked his father: why do you have to give money everyday to this stupid drunken man?
This is to practice good neighborhood relation my son, answered his father.
And don't worry, sooner or later, he is going to bring me back my pocket changes and more.
The pizza owner was right, before the end of the day, Da Mayor bought more beers from his store than he could handle, and spending all the assistance money and more …and this everyday.

Haitian leaders are just like this character, Da Mayor. We need to focus and have our priorities straight and not to spend foreign assistance and our own money in foolish, unnecessary, nonproductive, non beneficial activities that not in the advantage of the people.

Buying SUV's automobiles for our Senators and take expensive foreign trips are not a good way to spend money.
One of the reasons is our unbalanced import export.
Haiti is importing more in dollar than they are exporting.
Indeed, automobiles and computers cost more than coffee and mangoes.

As far it concerns the foreign assistance, Haiti needs to invest the foreign aid money in more concrete and more beneficial development activities to the country as a whole.
Yes Ezili, the blan give us the money and we turn around and give it back to them and more.
We need to change not only our begging habits, but our spending habits.

Happy New Year,
Happy Kwanzaa!

Michel

Ezili Danto
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 11:57 pm

Rele-l Papa Nwèl, ou, rele-l blan mannan, yo toujou pran

Post by Ezili Danto » Wed Dec 27, 2006 9:38 pm

Which part of this, from the above HLLN press release did you neglect to read, Michelnau?. This paragraph perhaps:

"...The HOPE legislation requires the U.S. president to certify to Congress that Haiti has established or is making progress in establishing a ‘free trade', market-based economy that rules out subsidies, price controls and government ownership of economic assets; that eliminates barriers to U.S. trade and investment by creating an environment conducive to foreign investment protecting intellectual property rights and resolving bilateral trade disputes. .."


The point is not that we are not prospering our own communities, (a worthy point but you're confusing issues here). The point is that (besides the support to sweatshop kingpins and neglect of workers' rights) this neoliberal "HOPE" legislation empowers the few at the expense of the many and you, Michelnau, objected to HLLN's statements on the basis that jobs at any cost was acceptable. It is not. That was the point in making the statement in the first place, and in contesting your subsequent comments herein. You wrote [quote] I believe that it's too early to start rejecting and imposing conditions now. Labor standards, workers' rights, enforcement and employer accountability are important thing for workers well being, but not urgent, all these things could come at a later time...If I don't have money to feed my family, I will work for $2.00 a day. [/quote]

Our position is 1): A few so-called "jobs to Haiti," at the workers expense and at the expense of denying the Haitian government its SOVEREIGN right to subsidize education, health care, built affordable housing, new roads, provide electricity, clean water, bring down the price of food, et al, is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Point, no virgule. The issue of what folks buy or how they spend their meager wages on imported goods or foreign goods that only enriches more the US/foreigner at the expense of our domestic economy a worthy point of another discussion, but it is not the point I made, nor is it the point that is made by the paragraph: "...For every dollar sent to Haiti, one dollar and thirty-four cents comes back." Then, who is giving aid to whom? "

The point of that sentence is that, like in Africa, US "aid" MONIES to Haiti remains mostly in the hands of the well-connected corporate few/state dept cronies living in the US. And, what trickles down from this "aid" MONIES does not reach, and, more precisely, is not funneled to reach the neediest in Haiti. (See, for further clarification, "Black People Oppressed at http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressc ... #oppressed where it is noted that ""The West receives US$10 for every US$1 it puts into Africa. In this case, who is giving aid to who or to put it more correctly, who is exploiting who?".)


Moreover, you wrote Michelnau that:[quote]If I don't have money to feed my family, I will work for $2.00 a day.
It's less risky than being a kidnapper to make a living.
The economy is a matter of supply and demand.
The more job opportunities, the more the Haitians could decide what jobs to select that offer a better pay. [/quote]

Our second point is (2): Labor standards are critical, not optional, especially in view of the historical employer abuses in Haiti.

Again, Michelnau, you're way off. Your facile argument is again besides the point, not to mention very offensive to Haiti's millions of workers and too easily stereotypical of our nation. The issue, Michelnau, is not a choice between working for $2 an hour, not at all or "being a kidnapper to make a living." The problem is that the few Haitians with jobs, are right this momemt NOT getting paid the agreed upon wages, and are subject to enormous employer exploitation, discrimination and abuses in Haiti.

It is not that the noted Haiti Activists are against the minimum wage, which, by the way, the US-imposed Miami government cut by 50%, from about $3.60 for a 12-hour day, down to $1.60 when they unlawfully took office in 2004. But even this, this cut wage is NOT BEING RESPECTED by the coup d'etat folks who own the factories that so benefited from the ouster of Haiti's democratically elected government in 2004. (See, "Our nasty little racist war in Haiti by Michaeli, Nimn, June 7, 2004, http://www.margueritelaurent.com/campai ... isney.html )

NO, we didn't even mention this or ask for the minimum wage that was in effect when Haiti had no military occupiers on its territory to be reinstated (although that is one of HLLN's legitimate demands to the Preval/Alexi government on behalf of Haitian workers.) What the Activists statement did point out is that workers' rights in Haiti are systematically being abused and US legislators where advised and know this long story. Yet, failed to provide any worker standards in the subject legislation, as they do for other such legislation in other countries, that would have some teeth against employers if the minimum ($1.60) wage was NOT PAID TO THE WORKERS taking these new jobs created under the HOPE law.

Again, Haiti's minimum wage was at approximately $3.60 for a 12-hour day before the 2004 coup d'etat. The first act of the Boca Raton regime when in took office was not only to give three years TAX BREAK to Haiti's richest but also to cut the minimum wage by half. To undermine Haiti's workers and the human, civil and democratic rights of the majority in Haiti was the primary reason and result of the 2004 coup d'etat. It was no secret to any of us who work in this field that the Group-184-business-folks with factories felt imposed upon by the workers lawful ability to EXPECT that the lawful ($3.60) wage be paid. In fact, that the common workers' in Haiti had an electoral democracy that, in theory, could provide said workers with the CHOICE to file complaints (if the minimum wage was not being paid) with duly ELECTED or APPOINTED officials (who were theoretically not bought-off by the powerful and rich), offended the Boulos/Apaid ilks to NO END.

But now since the 2004 coup d'etat, Haitian workers work solely at the mercy of the morally repugnant economic elites. The workers' work and work and work, and at the end of the day, because of the uneven and un-checked powers of the rich employers, may be fired and NEVER get paid, or have to provide sexual favors or political favors (like going or refraining from going to political demonstrations) in order TO GET PAID (what is already the lowest wage in the hemisphere cut in half) at all!!!

Ezili Dantò
Dec. 27, 2006
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On this second day of Kwanza, the principle we celebrate is Kuchichagulia – that as a Haitian people, as Dessalines' descedants, we have claimed our right to self-determination and n'ap vese san pou sa chak jou, chak jou.

The Black Soul lives: Denounce Dec. 22, 2006 UN slaughter and terror attacks in Site Soley http://www.margueritelaurent.com/campai ... ghter.html

Other recommemded HLLN links for Dec. 27, 2006:
Nwèl Nan Site Soley, poem by Anthony Leroy, Dec. 2006
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressc ... html#leroy
** (audio) - Nwèl Nan Site Soley
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/campai ... nwel01.mp3
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La MINUSTHA donne un cadeau de Noel empoisonnè a Site Soley, Lovinsky Pierre Anthoine, Dec. 27, 2006
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressc ... l#lovinsky
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Black Soul by Jean Fernand Bierre
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/campai ... ml#brierre
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UN's Christmas present to Haiti - A pre-dawn assult on the men, women and children of Site soley, Haiti Action Committee's Urgent Action Alert, December 25, 2006
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/campai ... #slaughter
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Michel Nau_

Post by Michel Nau_ » Thu Dec 28, 2006 12:35 pm

Ezili wrote: [quote]It is not that the noted Haiti Activists are against the minimum wage, but now since the 2004 coup d'etat, Haitian workers work solely at the mercy of the morally repugnant economic elites. [/quote] We can see where you are coming from Ezili.
Putting coup d'etat and MRI together in the same sentence clearly shows your aim is not to talk on behalf of the workers.
But nevertheless, they [the workers] don't have no choice but to work for who ever have the jobs.
Remember that the elites invested million of dollars in lobbying costs on the textiles industries in the US and abroad for their support, and even more money on the law makers on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC.
They [elites] need to get this money back which is part of cost of doing business.

What the activists and the workers have done? Not enough!!

We need to let the job market regulate itself by following the supply and demand for jobs in the hemisphere.
The more jobs available in Haiti, the higher the wage rate will go.
Ezili wrote: [quote]The workers' work and work and work, and at the end of the day, because of the uneven and un-checked powers of the rich employers, may be fired and NEVER get paid.[/quote]
You may be right!
This is a serious issue that the activists and the government need to address to the factory owners, and to come up with an equitable agreement that could satisfy all concerned parties before taking the street to revandike for higher wage.

Li le pou aktivis intelektyel sa yo sispan jwe nan tet travaye malere yo e sispand kreye dezod, brigandaj, vandalis, e kraze ekonomi peyi a pou minpot ti krik ti krak.
Nou gen yon lot obligasyon tou etan intelektyel liberal pou nou fe edikasyon pep la tou pou nou explike yo ke job sa yo se trokay la, e ke manman chaj job la deye ap vini.

Zafe di yo ke yo se pitit Desalin e yo pa fet pou aksepte ninpot bagay san ke nou pa ofri yo yon lot alternativ pap rezoud problem grangou e mize klas defavorize yo. Se plis zizani ke sa kreye.

Michel

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