MEXICO CITY — Garment factories in Haiti, the backbone of an effort to revive the country’s earthquake-shattered economy, have seriously shortchanged workers of their wages to keep costs of their T-shirts and other export goods low, according to a report to be issued Wednesday by a labor rights group.
The report, prepared by the Worker Rights Consortium, focused on 5 of Haiti’s 24 garment factories and found that “the majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.”
The group said that the factories deprive workers of higher wages they are entitled to under law by setting difficult-to-meet production quotas and neglecting to pay overtime.
A recent New York Times op-ed offers only half the picture.
What is the point of doing any work in Haiti? After all, the country is a mess and it’s hard to shake that habit. And its reputation.
Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah’s December 9 New York Timesop-ed illustrates in detail the post-rape reality for a survivor of sexual violence in Haiti – a series of misfortunes that encapsulate all of Haiti’s failings in responding to rape. Yet the authors make no mention of the hard work of many groups that have been trying to improve the country’s reputation.
The story is so vivid and real that I can imagine Wendy recounting it to me and my former colleagues at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) office in Port-au-Prince. Yet, it does Haiti a disservice by focusing on the negative, failing to mention the numerous efforts to combat rape in Haiti, and the numerous successes, since the earthquake. As the work of my colleagues at BAI and collaborators at women’s grassroots organizations like KOFAVIV (see also MADRE) and FAVILEK demonstrates every week, the story does not have to play out that way.