U.S. and Dominican Republic Create Task Force to Address Reported Sugar Sector Labor Violations – JURIST

The United States and the Dominican Republic jointly announced on Friday the formation of a technical working group to address alleged labor violations in the latter’s sugar sector. The ad touts the new task force, saying:

This joint effort takes into account the commitment of both countries to enforce labor laws, including those relating to forced labor, to improve working conditions within the framework of CAFTA-DR and in accordance with international standards, and to pursue their longstanding partnership on solving these problems.

The announcement comes after a long history of alleged labor violations in the Dominican Republic’s sugar cane fields, which has complicated diplomatic relations between the two countries. In 2011, Father Christopher Hartley of the Fundación Misión de la Misericordia sent a letter to Office of Business and Labor Affairs (OTLA) Director Gregory Schoepfle, alleging child labor and other labor violations on plantations. sugar cane.

The OTLA responded by opening an investigation in 2013 under Chapter 16 of the Free Trade Agreement between the Dominican Republic, Central America and the United States (CAFTA-DR). The ensuing investigation revealed “significant concerns about procedural and methodological shortcomings in this inspection process in the sugar sector that compromise the government’s ability to effectively identify labor rights violations.”

The most recent reports come from a joint letter from the US Congress, submitted by the US House Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who chairs the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee, to President Joe Biden and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. The letter alleges that “[s]Stakeholders have raised serious questions about the inhuman working conditions in the Dominican Republic’s sugar sector for many years. »

A 2004 study, conducted by the Centro de Servicios Legales para la Mujer, Inc. and funded by the International Fund for Labor Rights, collected first-hand accounts of workers in the sugar cane fields in the Dominican Republic. Through this, they found that 58 percent of workers were forced to work overtime, 33 percent were not paid on time consistently, and among workers receiving promotions, only 2.9 percent were women. The report also found violations of trade union law, with one respondent stating:

We created a union, registered it and fulfilled all the legal requirements… We had started the collective bargaining process, we had a negotiation in the capital and everything was going very well. Then the administrator found a lawyer, Ramón, who worked to eliminate the unions. This lawyer was bribing four of the union leaders with money… Some took the money and left.

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