Honduran Unions, with AFL-CIO, File CAFTA Labor Complaint with U.S.

Over two dozen Honduran trade unions joined by the AFL-CIO this week filed a labor complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor charging the Honduran government with violating the labor provisions of the Dominican-Republic Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).   May 2012 Update: The U.S. Department of Labor accepted the complaint and has begun its investigation.

The complaint focuses on violations in manufacturing, agricultural, and port operations.

In a March 29, 2012 press release accompanying the filing, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stated, “There have been repeated and well-documented violations of workers’ rights, and the Honduran Government has utterly failed to address these violations.”

Under the labor provisions of CAFTA, a country is required to enforce its domestic labor law.  As the AFL-CIO press release noted, the Honduran government has not only failed to effectively enforce its labor laws, it has taken steps to weaken them since CAFTA was implemented in 2006.  In 2010, the government approved a measure to allow employers to hire up to 40% of their workers on temporary contracts for work that should be treated as permanent work.  

Representatives of the General Workers Federation (CGT) and the Independent Federation of Workers of Honduras (FITH) came to Washington, DC to file the petition on behalf of over 24 Honduran unions.  Among the signers (see list below) were banana unions (COSIBAH, the Coordination of Banana Unions of Honduras, and the Chiquita union SITRATERCO) and apparel unions (e.g. SITRAJERZEESND).  Evangelina Argueta Chinchilla, who represented the CGT, and Francisco Francisco Joel López Mejía, Deputy Secretary General of the FITH, were joined in Washington by Dana Frank and others to highlight worker as well as human rights violations in Honduras.

The AFL-CIO used the filing of the labor complaint as an opportunity to reinforce support for a broader change in U.S. policy towards Honduras, reflected in U.S. union support for a March 9 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initiated by Rep. Jan Schakowsky.  In the letter, Representative Schakowsky and 93 other members of the House called on the U.S. government to suspend military and police aid to Honduras until the government addresses human rights violations, a request that has so far been rebuffed by the State Department.

The filing of the Honduran labor complaint comes just as the Guatemala labor complaint, the first labor complaint filed under CAFTA, nears its 4th anniversary, with little to celebrate.  Hopefully, the Honduran complaint will generate more advances on a much faster timeframe.

Complete list of Honduran unions and one NGO filing CAFTA labor complaint:

Central General de Trabajadores (CGT)
Confederación de Trabajadores de Honduras (CTH)
Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras (CUTH)
Coordinadora de Sindicatos Bananeros y Agroindustriales de Honduras (COSIBAH)
Federacion Independente de Trajabadores de Honduras (FITH)
Federación Nacional de Trabajadores Autónomos de la Economía de Honduras (FENTAEH)
Federacion Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras (FUTH)
Sindicato de Empleados y Trabajadores de la Empresa Editorial Honduras S.A de C.V (SEYTEEH)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de Delta Apparel, S, A (SITRADASA)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de Finca América Ameribi (SITRAMERIBI)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de Guarumas Agroindustrial (SITRAGUA)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Compania Pinehurst (SITRAPINEHURST)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa A.tion (SITRATION)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de La Empresa Honduras Electrical Distribution Systems S de R.L. Kyungshin-Lear (SITRAKYUNGSHINLEAR)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Jerzees Nuevo Día (SITRAJERZEESND)
Sindicatos de Trabajadores de la Empresa New Holland Lingerie de Honduras (SITRANEWHOLLAND)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Petralex (SITRAPETRALEX)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Southern Apparel Contractors, S.A (SITRASOACON)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Fundacion Hondurena de Investigacion Agricola (SITRAFHIA)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Bebida y Similares (STIBYS)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Tela Railroad Company (SITRATERCO)
Sindicato de Trabajadores de Star (SITRASTAR)
Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores de Muelle (SGTM)
Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores Portuarios de Honduras (SINGTRAPH)
Sindicato Reformado de Marinos de Honduras (SIREMAH)
Centro de Derechos de Mujeres (CDM)