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DR workers face uphill battle to unionize

12 July, 2013Deciding to form a union at your workplace should not have to be a life-changing decision, but for workers at DMG International shoe company in the Dominican Republic that is just what it turned out to be.

When workers at the Free Trade Zone company decided to organize in the face of appalling wages and working conditions, the company’s reaction was swift and brutal. Six members of the union committee were fired, and others suddenly found that their every move was closely watched.

So closely watched, in fact, that some forty workers who met with union leaders in their own neighborhoods were dismissed when they showed up for work the next morning. The company claimed they were terminated because of a lack of orders, but then promptly hired replacement workers.

On Wednesday 10 July the president of the union committee was surrounded on the factory floor by workers armed with knives and bats, who told him his life was on the line unless he quit the union.

IndustriALL Global Union has demanded that the incident be investigated and that those found responsible be punished.

It has also called on the company to negotiate appropriate measures to put an end to the violence and to ensure that workers are able to exercise the right to organize. Such measures should include a policy of zero-tolerance towards violence, the reinstatement of all workers dismissed for exercising the right of freedom of association, and a guarantee that the company will respect the right of workers to organize freely, including providing access to the union federation UNATRAZONAS which is helping the workers to organize.

The Minister of Labour and the company’s sole client, the Red Wing Shoe Company, have been asked to intervene.

Meanwhile, the workers’ courage and spirit of determination continues unabated.