Coup in Honduras: Unions Fight Back; Action Needed by US Congress

While mediation by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has so far yielded little progress, the situation in Honduras continues to worsen with reports of hundreds of human rights violations and four political assassinations, including one trade unionist.

Editorials in the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times this week called on the Obama Administration to do more to support the return of President Manuel Zelaya.  A resolution opposing the coup in Honduras has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and needs your support. Take action today to oppose the coup in Honduras and support Honduran unions who are fighting back.

Honduran unions are helping lead popular resistance to the June 28, 2009 coup when democratically-elected Honduran President Zelaya was dragged out of bed, abducted, and forced to fly to Costa Rica. The union movement immediately called a national strike, joined by, among others, Chiquita banana worker union members who gave up a day's pay and more to participate. Teachers unions, the largest in the country, continue on strike, shutting down the education system while thousands of workers have joined peaceful protests that have been met with teargas.

The international trade union movement continues to weigh in on its opposition to the coup, support for Honduran unions, and support for democracy and worker rights.

In a resolution circulated on July 8th on the coup in Honduras, the Executive Board of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) strongly condemned the military coup, denouncing the detentions, threats and attacks against protesters of the coup, including the invasion and destruction of the head office of national trade union center the General Confederation of Labour (CGT). The Honduran Congress has suspended civil liberties, including freedom of association, in a move that escalates the conflict and increases the risk of more violence, while some Honduran employers have reportedly forced their workers to take part in marches supporting the de facto administration.

One of the biggest backers of the coup has been the Honduran Maquila Association. In the U.S., the American Apparel & Footwear Association joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups in a July 11 statement opposing efforts to bring U.S. economic pressure to bear on the coup leaders, a position that effectively supports the coup. Leading U.S. apparel firms have so far kept silent on the coup as well as the pro-coup support of the Honduran maquila business sector that produces apparel for brand-name U.S. firms.

The International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) stated in a July 14 press release "since the coup there has been growing concern at the threat to trade union and popular leaders, and it appears there is a list of leaders who are threatened with detention and whose personal safety is at risk. There have been reports that on Saturday evening [July 11th], two leaders of the popular opposition to the coup, Roger Ivan Bados and Ramon Garcia, were murdered in two separate incidents by unidentified gunmen. The ITGLWF, a global union that represents workers in the footwear and apparel sectors, also expresses deep concern about worsening working conditions, including the efforts to rescind a wage increase ordered by President Zelaya earlier this year in order to reflect the increased cost of food and other essentials.

The Organization of American States and governments around the world, including the United States, have openly condemned the coup. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and U.S. NGOs and faith-based groups, including USLEAP, have respectively issued statements also denouncing the coup. The Obama administration has firmly stated support for democracy in Honduras and the reinstatement of President Zelaya. Both the OAS and the U.S. have put a halt on tens of millions of dollars in aid; the U.S. has primarily suspended military assistance.

Currently, opponents of the coup in the U.S. should support the Delahunt-McGovern resolution (H. Res. 630), which calls for the reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya as President of Honduras and suspension of nonhumanitarian assistance. Take action today to help ensure that the White House uses every means at its disposal to ensure the reinstatement of President Zelaya and the restoration of democracy in Honduras. Urge your representative to condemn the military coup, which has resulted in the reported killing of five people (including a journalist and a trade unionist) and oppression of thousands of peaceful protesters, of whom 180 have been detained and 18 accused of sedition.

Take Action!