AFL-CIO tackles rights violations in Honduras

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WASHINGTON - The AFL-CIO and two leading Honduran union federations formally complained to the U.S. Labor Department that Honduras is violating the Central American Free Trade Agreement by not enforcing its own labor laws.  The groups asked the DOL to investigate, negotiate changes, and punish Honduras if necessary.

In the case, filed Mar. 29, the federations said the Latin American government is refusing to enforce its laws in the manufacturing, agriculture, and port sectors. Last year, the DOL found another CAFTA signer, Guatemala, broke the CAFTA pact.

Honduran workers' internationally recognized rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and acceptable working conditions are also violated, this year's complaint said. Many workers have nowhere to turn for legal relief and there is still excessive use of child labor in Honduran agriculture, it adds.

Honduras "has not complied with the ILO provisions" in CAFTA, said Francisco Joel López Mejía, Deputy Secretary General of the Independent Federation of Workers of Honduras, one of two Honduran union leaders who came to Washington to file the complaint.

"The [Honduran] government and corporations have continued to act with impunity, while undermining our most basic rights," Lopez Mejia said.

In particular, he said, the Honduran government changed its labor law in late 2010 to let firms hire up to 40 percent of their workforce on temporary, part-time contracts for what is usually full-time work. The other Honduran leader, Evangelina Argueta Chinchilla of the General Workers Confederation, said: "We are here in search of justice. For many years our government neglected workers and even violated their own promises. They ignored Honduras' unions, while dealing openly with corporations. They passed laws that undermine unions and reduce the standards of living."

Photo: A Honduras Labor Day rally. Corporations are undermining the rights of workers like these.   Fernando Antonio/AP

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  • This is an extremely important development that should be given wide publicity. Those of us who remember the international policies of the AFL-CIO under George Meany and Lane Kirkland can only be heartened by this type of stance, as well as moves in US labor to lend solidarity to the struggles of independent left-led Mexican unions.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 04/11/2012 8:07am (3 years ago)

  • Wikipedia indicates that there are political pressure groups in Honduras, including the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras, the Confederation of Honduran Workers, the Coordinating Committee of Popular Organizations, the General Workers Confederation, the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise, the National Association of Honduran Campesinos, the National Union of Campesinos, and the United Federation of Honduran Workers.
    If the charges are correct, then the various organizations should find a way to cooperate and make the government do to what they have committed to.
    To turn to US labor organizations, I don't think, will be particularly helpful. To improve the fate of workers takes lots of work and intelligence by the workers, history across the world has shown that time and again. All we can say is: Have courage!

    Posted by John de Waal, 04/10/2012 9:16pm (3 years ago)

  • The Obama administration, in response, has increased aid, support to this fascist, corporatist regime.

    Posted by bruce bostick, 04/09/2012 9:18pm (3 years ago)

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