US Embassy used aggressive lobbying to avoid minimum wage increase in Haiti

Haiti, Minimum Wage and the US Embassy | Wikileaks

The US Embassy in Haiti worked alongside Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s in order to convince the Haitian President, René Préval, to flip-flop on a widely-supported minimum wage increase.

The Wikileaks Haitian Cables reveal that Embassy Officials met with factory leaders on multiple occasions and criticized the Haitian leader’s efforts to raise the minimum wage as the ‘wrong medicine’ for the ailing economy.

Ambassador Janet Sanderson, in a June 10 memo, blackmailed the Haiti administration by claiming that an increase “would result in the loss of 10,000 workers in the sector”. She also confirmed that a group of Haitian industrial leaders (ADIH) met with Préval on several occasions in order to express their animosity towards the proposed legislation.

Despite Parliament voting overwhelmingly in favour of the bill, it seems as though Préval eventually caved-in to pressure from a coalition of US garment industry leaders and US diplomats and only agreed to sign a substantially watered-down bill.

This bill, signed in Autumn 2009, gave birth to a two-tiered wage structure that allowed workers in the textile industry (which accounts for 90% of Haitian exports) to only earn just over half of the originally promised $5 a day income. Haiti continues to be the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

A leading Haitian economist, Camille Chalmers, calculated that basic living expenses for a family of four in the Caribbean nation are at least US$25 a day. A 2011 study by the American AFL-CIO labor federation put the bare minimum at US$29 a day. Bitter industrial disputes and political violence remain widespread across Haiti to this day.

Wikileaks Decrypted | Haiti Diplomatic Cables