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The AFL-CIO Joins Honduran Trade Unions in Filing a Petition with Department of Labor against Honduran Government for Failing to Enforce Labor Laws under Trade Agreement

Petition focuses on the Honduran government’s failure to enforce labor laws in three export-related sectors: manufacturing, agriculture, and port operations

(Washington, DC, March 29, 2012) – This week the AFL-CIO joined the main Honduran trade unions to file a petition with the Department of Labor’s Public Office of Trade & Labor Affairs (OTLA) concerning the failure of the government of Honduras to effectively enforce its labor laws and comply with its commitments under the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).

According to the complaint, six years after the trade agreement with the United States and Honduras entered into full force workers have seen little meaningful enforcement of their labor rights, as national labor laws are ineffective and violated with impunity. 

“There have been repeated and well-documented violations of workers’ rights, and the Honduran Government has utterly failed to address these violations,” said AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka.  “The petition reflects the long-term cooperation and commitment of the AFL-CIO and the Honduran labor movement to promote and protect worker rights.”

The petition focuses on the Honduran government’s failure to enforce labor laws in three export-related sectors: manufacturing, agriculture, and port operations.  The petition also notes that workers in Honduras have continued to see violations of their rights of freedom of association, collective bargaining and acceptable conditions of work under national and international law. Many workers don’t have access to fair and efficient administrative or judicial tribunals. Child labor, particularly in the agricultural sector, is also a serious concern. 

“The Honduran government has not complied with the ILO provisions included in the trade agreement,” said Francisco Joel López Mejía, Deputy Secretary General of the Independent Federation of Workers of Honduras (FITH), who traveled to Washington, D.C., to file the complaint. “The government and corporations have continued to act with impunity, while undermining our most basic rights.”

The government amended the labor law in late 2010 to allow employers to hire up to 40% of their workforce on temporary, part-time contracts for work that is by its nature full-time permanent work—purportedly as a means to boost employment in the wake of the economic crisis.

Evangelina Argueta Chinchilla, a representative of Honduras’s General Workers Confederation (CGT), who also came to Washington, D.C., to file the petition, said: “We are here in search of justice. For many years our government has neglected workers and even has violated their own promises. They have ignored Honduras’s unions, while dealing openly with corporations. They have passed laws that undermine unions and reduce standards of living. We are hopeful that the Honduran government will rectify its action by complying with international labor law.”

With this petition, the AFL-CIO and the Honduran trade unions involved asked the U.S. government to engage the government of Honduras to take all measures necessary to address the legal and institutional obstacles to the effective enforcement of its labor law, as well as to remedy as fully as possible the individual claims. 

Visiting Honduran Union Leaders Background

 

Evangelina Argueta Chinchilla

Ms. Argueta Chinchilla is a representative of the General Workers Confederation (CGT) and Coordinator for the apparel and textile federation (FESITRATEMASH), which is affiliated to the CGT. The CGT was founded in 1970 and represents 150,000 workers from 3 peasant organizations, 2 women’s organizations, and 4 union federations from various sectors including the public sector, education, health, banking, apparel and textiles, mining, and transportation. Ms. Argueta Chinchilla began working in the apparel industry at age 15 and was a founding member of the SITRAVINCASA union at her factory at age 16. In 2000 Ms. Argueta Chinchilla was named one of Latin America’s best union leaders by a European organization. In 2009 and 2010, Ms. Argueta Chinchilla negotiated historic agreements with two major US apparel brands, and she recently served on a tripartite commission regarding the apparel industry in Honduras.

Francisco Joel López Mejía

Mr. López Mejía is the Deputy Secretary General of the Independent Federation of Workers of Honduras (FITH) and a member of the San Pedro Sula Municipal Employees’ Union (SIDEYTMS).  The FITH is a national union federation of approximately 15,000 workers, founded in 1985 and today is made up of 18 unions from various sectors including the public sector, health, apparel and textiles, aeronautics, and maritime, and also includes one women’s association.  Mr. Lopez Mejia began his union career as a member of the Textile Manufacturing Union of Honduras (SITRAEMTEXH) in 1982, later serving as its president.  Mr. Lopez Mejia has twice participated in the National Minimum Wage Commission’s negotiations to update the Honduran minimum wage.

Contact: Gonzalo Salvador (202) 637-5018

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