Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Its expanding garment industry pays wages to workers that are among the lowest in any of the world’s leading apparel-exporting nations. Yet despite benefiting from rock-bottom labor costs – as well as trade preferences under the HOPE II2 program – garment factory owners in Haiti routinely, and illegally, cheat workers of substantial portions of their pay, depriving them of any chance to free their families from lives of grueling poverty and frequent hunger.
Tacitly complicit in this theft of wages are the major North American apparel brands and retailers, like Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart, that are buyers of garments from Haiti. Although most, if not all, of these firms are well-aware of this law-breaking, they continue with business as usual, profiting from the lower prices that they can obtain from factories that cheat their workers of legally owed wages.
Despite the presence in Haiti, since 2009, of a factory monitoring program operated by International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and funded by both the U.S. and Canadian governments and major brands and retailers, themselves, the extent of wage theft in the country’s garment industry has only increased over the past few years. Earlier this year, this ILO-IFC monitoring program, termed “Better Work Haiti,” reported that every single one of the country’s 24 export garment factories was illegally cheating workers of pay by failing to comply with the country’s legal minimum wage.
But while the ILO-IFC program has previously acknowledged the prevalence of minimum wage violations in Haiti’s apparel sector, little has been reported about the actual impact of this wage theft on Haitian garment workers’ incomes, and, by extension, the day-to-day lives of their families. This report details, for the first time, the scale of the wage theft being committed against Haitian garment workers and the toll this law-breaking inflicts on them and their families in their daily struggles against hunger, illness and the other ravages of poverty.
Click here to read the full report.