Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some Background

The IWW was invited by the CTH (Confederation des travailleurs haitiens, Confederation of Haitian Workers) in the hopes that we would learn exactly what work they have been doing in Haiti since 1959 and the difficulties they have encountered under the Duvalier dictatorships and the recent tyranny of neoliberalism.  Ultimately the CTH hopes the IWW will be able to help in material aid and help in forming links of solidarity with other anti-privatisation organizations.

History and Evolution of the CTH's perspective.

In 1959 the CTH was founded by Christian workers who were working in sweatshops during the dictatorship of Duvalier. Many of these members were tortured, killed and forced into exile for their union activity. But a small cadre remaining in Haiti went underground. They focused on two objectives: organizing a country-wide union, and resisting the dictatorship of Duvalier. However with the first democratic elections in 1990 the CTH emerged as a union active in advancing the interests of workers: good jobs, improvement of living conditions, quality of life, and grassroots changes of the country. Since the overthrow of Aristide in 1991, the CTH has had its ups and downs, from strong influence with workers to a crisis that has challenged its very existence. Following the coup d'etat of 2004 the CTH has been struggling to rebuild. Paradoxically it has been reinvigorated over the past two weeks during the food crisis that has caused average Hatians to take to the streets and protest militantly against the the privatization policies which led to the tripling or quadrupling of the cost of living. In this context the CTH is demanding a constitutional role for unions and union members. The current president Rene Preval seems receptive to this idea.

Haiti has officially 8.5 million inhabitants, but in reality closer to 10 million (with another 4 million living abroad mainly in the US and Canada). While it has an active workforce of 7 million there are 200,000 formal jobs of which 50,000 are in the public sector and 150,000 in the private sector. However the government is in the process of cutting public sector jobs with great strides as is the private sector.

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