The Sugar Class Documents the Sugar Sector worker of the Dominican Republic.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a report in response to a complaint brought under the free trade agreement between the United States and the Dominican Republic, known as the Central America Free Trade Agreement–Dominican Republic (CAFTA–DR), which detailed severe worker abuse on sugar plantations. The vast majority of sugar workers are Haitian or of Haitian descent. Most are undocumented, leaving them particularly vulnerable to extreme exploitation. The DOL’s report confirms ongoing, systematic abuses, including the use of child and forced labor; hazardous working conditions; wage theft; denial of medical, pension and other benefits if the worker is undocumented; routine violations of minimum wage and overtime rules; and retaliatory firings against union activists and workers who attempt to mount legal challenges against their employer. Unfortunately, this is not news to anyone familiar with the issue—the industry has been under fire for decades and has been the subject of multiple studies and media reports.
Sugar sector workers are often reluctant to file complaints regarding labor abuses due to fear of retaliation. In addition to discriminatory policies, the government periodically engages in forced, violent deportation of Haitian immigrants. Employers in the sugar sector take advantage of workers' precarious legal status and the fear it engenders. The DOL report notes that some have threatened to report workers to immigration authorities to ensure compliance. Under these circumstances, it is unsurprising that working conditions on sugar plantations have not improved despite prolonged international scrutiny.
DONATE ANY AMOUNT OVER $50 AND RECEIVE THE SUGAR CLASS TEE SHIRT