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Labor Rights Breakthrough in Nicaragua

February, 01 2003 Share

 

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Labor Rights Breakthrough in Nicaragua

  • Union wins model agreement at the Mil Colores factory
  • Could set a new precedent for all of Central America

For years, the Mil Colores factory in the Las Mercedes Free Trade Zone in Nicaragua was the scene of almost constant labor conflicts, where attempts to organize were met with mass firings.

This was the past. Recently, the Mil Colores union, the CST-JBE (Union Workers Central-José Benito Escobar) and Craig Miller, the owner of the Mil Colores factory reached a model agreement that could set a new labor rights precedent for Nicaragua and all of Central America.

Mil Colores commits that from this point forward:

  • All of its management and administrative staff will remain strictly neutral in any organizing drive, while guaranteeing that the legal rights of the workers will be fully respected, in spirit and in practice.
  • There will be full respect at the factory for the newly elected union leaders' right to carry out their union work.
  • There will be no retaliation or reprisals against rank and file workers for meeting with union leaders, or for joining the union.
  • The union will be allowed to hold meetings at the factory after working hours.
  • The CST-JBE will be given full access to the factory to help facilitate the reorganization of the Mil Colores union.

Further, to guarantee that these major improvements continue to go forward and are locked in place, the Mil Colores factory will be open to both national and international delegations. The National Labor Committee has been invited to visit the factory, and trade union delegations from Spain and Denmark have already toured the plant.

The National Labor Committee is in full agreement with the workers and their union that this is an excellent agreement!

For some time now, we at the National Labor Committee have been planning to release the names of decent factories in the developing world--factories which are far better than average and are moving in the direction of becoming model operations. Of course, these judgement are made on the ground, by workers and their organizations. When the National Labor Committee moves to post this list, it is certain that Mil Colores and KB Manufacturing (located in Granada, Nicaragua) will be on it. Eighty percent of the workers at the KB factory are affiliated with the Union Edgar Roblero.

As human and labor rights activists and consumers in the U.S., we should be rewarding factories that are moving in the right direction and instituting major reforms. We should be highlighting the positive progress that management and workers are making at these facilities

This proves once again that international solidarity works--if we stick with it over time. Of course, we will be closely monitoring the positive developments at these factories.

Fresh from their victories at the Mil Colores and KB factories, the CST-JBE labor federation is about to launch an ambitious series of new organizing drives across Nicaragua. Please stay tuned to our website and email list for information on how you can help. The workers are going to need the solidarity of the American people.

Also, the new Central American, Caribbean and Mexican Maquila Coordination Body has been up and running for some time now, and is at the cutting edge of work to establish a regional framework fighting for respect for human and worker rights and to coordinate cross-border organizing drives. (See the agreement the Maquila Coordination Body recently signed with the new U.S. No More Sweatshops Coalition.)

The Maquila Coordination Body is leading the struggle on the ground in Central America to guarantee legal worker rights protections and fair trade are made a core condition of the Central America Free Trade Agreement, which the Bush Administration hopes to sign before the year is out.

Counter Central America Free Trade Agreement meetings and protests are being planned for July 2003 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Both the Honduran labor federations FITH and FESITRADEH (Independent Federation of Honduran Workers and the Union Federation of Honduran Workers) and the Nicaraguan CST-JBE, together with the Maquila Coordination Body, are taking leading roles in organizing this. (Please contact us for more information or if you are interested in participating in the Honduras meetings.)