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Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven’t you seen “Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”?
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It’s not just Floods and Earthquakes either, I suspect that at the center of most conspiracy theories, you’ll eventually find some force of nature that is so threatening the certain will build increasingly bizarre coping mechanisms to deal with it (especially for the uneducated and the faithless).
Five years after the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, workers are still struggling to pay for transportation, food and housing, as the cost of living rises exponentially while wages fail to keep pace.
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Elmerome, who makes T-shirts and is paid 225 Haitian gourdes ($4.81) per eight-hour day, says even though his wages have risen from 125 gourdes per day before the earthquake, food for himself and his child every day costs 500 gourdes, or more than twice his daily income. In 2013, he spent about 400 gourdes a day on food. Meanwhile, his child’s education costs run about 5,000 gourdes a month.
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Since then, Haitian unions have sought to secure improvements for workers through labor-employer discussions with the government on reforming the current labor code, boosting social protections and reviewing wage levels. The current labor code has not been updated in more than 28 years, and union leaders say stronger labor laws and improved social protections could go a long way to address many of the problems facing Haitian workers and their families.
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In the apparel sector, Haitian unions are actively participating with employers in the Social Dialogue Table launched in early 2014. Haitian government representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor Ministry participate as observers, along with other national and international organizations, including the Solidarity Center, the CTMO-HOPE Commission and the nonprofit, Better Work-Haiti. Union leaders say this process can potentially pave the way for improved workplace conditions, especially respect for worker rights.
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“Our discussions with Haitian workers underscore a critical truth about the recovery effort: Subsistence wages have not helped workers surmount this disaster, much less allowed them to prepare for the next environmental or economic shock,” said Shawna Bader-Blau, Solidarity Center executive director. “For hardworking Haitians to live with dignity—and for Haiti to develop an economy that works for its people—fair wages are essential.”
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The January 12, 2010, earthquake killed more than 200,000 Haitians and left another 1.5 million homeless. The disaster was followed by a string of tropical storms and a cholera epidemic that killed at least 8,000 people. Within days of the earthquake, the Solidarity Center dispatched to Haiti from its field office in the neighboring Dominican Republic and carried out numerous aid and relief projects, together with allies like the American Federation of Teachers and TransAfrica. The report, details the full range of the Solidarity Center’s multiyear relief and rebuilding effort in Haiti.