(en)U.S. company tries to break union in Nicaragua

Lyn and Shawn (linjin@tao.ca)
Sat, 21 Jun 1997 04:05:17 pst


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Labor Alerts/Labor News a service of Campaign for Labor Rights 1247 "E" Street SE, Washington, DC 20003 clr@igc.apc.org (541) 344-5410 http://www.compugraph.com/clr U.S. Company Tries to Break Union in Nicaragua Summary: When workers at the Cupid Foundations factory in Nicaragua, which makes women's undergarments for the U.S. market, formed a union management resorted to intimidation and firing of union leaders in an attempt to destroy the union. The factories of Cupid Foundations, a North American company with headquarters on Madison Avenue in New York City, are unionized in the United States but evidently the company does not recognize the same rights of free association and collective bargaining for its overseas workers. Because this is an American company, even the U.S. Embassy has gotten involved: apparently on the side of management. Numerous faxes have gone out in support of workers, and with further international support for the workers, it still may be possible to save the union. Background: Workers at Cupid Foundations make a base salary of about $40 per month. Because this is not enough for survival, they have to work many hours of overtime. In sworn testimony workers stated that they work under conditions which show a lack of the most basic respect for their humanity, including harassment and such things as not being able to go to the bathroom when they need to. The union at Cupid Foundations was registered with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Labor in January of 1997. In April and early May, three union leaders were fired by management which said that they were "bad workers." Later in May, a meeting was held at the factory attended by workers, the factory manager, the Mayor and Chief of Police of Nindiri (where the factory is located) and an official from the U.S. Embassy in Managua. Several workers stood up to say that they had been pressured to join the union but that they opposed a union and that things were fine in the factory. Shortly thereafter, management went around collecting signatures from workers on a document saying that they did not want a union in their factory. However, the presence of such officials as the Police Chief and a U.S. Embassy official at a meeting in support of management is an obvious intimidation tactic. And in fact, the three workers who made the sworn statement mentioned above also stated that, in the words of one, "I have received threats, harassment and intimidation, that I would be fired if I continued to belong to the recently formed union in this company." At the request of Cupid Foundations management, the Minister of Labor has canceled the registration of the executive committee of the union. The union, however, has placed a demand signed by 20 union members from the factory before the court in the Department of Masaya asking that the cancellation not be allowed. The union still has its legal

recognition and thus could still be revived if management were to stop its attacks. Action requested: Send this sample letter by mail or fax to Cupid Foundations: Mr. David Welsch and Ms. Marilyn Welsch Cupid Foundations, Inc. 200 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10016 Fax: (212) 481-9357 Dear Mr. Welsch and Ms. Welsch: It has come to my attention that, at the Cupid Foundations, Inc., factory in Nicaragua, a union organized by workers there is being destroyed through management intimidation. After the union received legal recognition earlier this year, several leaders were fired and others were "convinced" to renounce their support of the union. On Wednesday, June 11, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Labor, at the request of management, cancelled the registration of union officers for the union at Cupid Foundations. The union, however, still has its legal recognition. As I am sure you know, companies doing business in Nicaragua under the Corporation of the Free Trade Zone must abide by the Nicaraguan Constitution and Nicaraguan law. Both establish the freedom of workers to form trade unions and bargain collectively. Three Cupid workers who were union leaders were fired because of their union activity. Others signed sworn statements stating, in the words of one that "I received threats, harassment and intimidation, that I would be fired if I continued to belong to the recently formed union in this company of the Free Trade Zone." As a consumer and person who is concerned about labor rights, I respectfully urge you to investigate what has happened at your factory in Nicaragua. I understand that, in the United States, Cupid Foundations is a union company. Certainly Cupid workers in Nicaragua should have the same rights as the workers here in the U.S. I hope that Cupid Foundations will: 1. Reinstate the three fired workers who were union leaders (Eudice Poveda, Nora Cerrato, and Ana Julia Espinoza); and 2. End the harassment of the union and allow organization to proceed. I hope to hear from you in the near future about your policies at the Cupid Foundations factory in Nicaragua. Sincerely, Also send a letter to the United States Ambassador in Managua:

Honorable Lino Gutierrez United States Ambassador American Embassy Fax: (505) 266-9056 Managua, Nicaragua You can use the same letter as above substituting these demands: I hope that you, as my representative, in Nicaragua will: 1. Clarify the role played by the U.S. Embassy in the attempt to destroy the union at Cupid; and 2. Promise me that, from now on, the U.S. will support the workers' right to organize a union in the Cupid factory and elsewhere. For more information about labor rights in Nicaragua, contact Katherine Hoyt at the Nicaragua Network, 1247 "E" Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003; (202) 544-9355; e-mail: nicanet@igc.org CAMPAIGN FOR LABOR RIGHTS newsletter memberships: Send $35.00 to CLR, 1247 "E" Street SE, Washington, DC 20003. For a sample copy, send your postal address to clr@igc.apc.org ---------------------------------------------------------------------- To receive our e-mail Labor Alerts send a message to clr@igc.apc.org with "labor alerts -- all campaigns" in the subject line or specify which labor issues interest: Nike, Disney, Guess, child labor, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, US farm workers, US poultry processing workers. If you would like to receive information which falls outside those categories (prison labor, workfare, other policy issues, additional briefing material on some campaigns), indicate that you want to be on out Additional Labor Information list AS WELL as our All Campaigns list. CAMPAIGN FOR LABOR RIGHTS newsletter memberships: Send $35.00 to CLR, 1247 "E" Street SE, Washington, DC 20003. For a sample copy, send your postal address to clr@igc.apc.org ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Labor Alerts lists: Nike, Disney, Guess, child labor, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, US farm workers, US poultry processing workers. To receive information on each of these, let us know that you want to be on our ALL CAMPAIGNS list. If you would like to receive information which falls ourside those categories (prison labor, workfare, other policy issues, additional briefing material on some campaigns), indicate that you want to be on our Additional Labor Information list AS WELL AS our All Campaigns list.

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