Unions Banned

21 04 2008

On the banana plantations, transnational companies violate the rights of workers to freely organize unions and to use collective bargaining to negotiate work conditions.  By hiring workers for less than 3 months, the companies bend and violate the Costa Rican law that gives long-term workers the right to unionize.  It takes 3 months of employment to be considered a long-term worker.  Further, because banana plantations provide employment for migrant workers, the Costa Rican government has restricted investigations into illegal union-blocking policies.

Solidarismo, a business-sponsored labor movement aimed at replacing traditional unions, is another hindrance to workers’ right to unionize.  The movement emphasizes cooperation between workers and employers, with membership open on both sides.  Because solidarismos are funded and managed by the companies, they support only company interests.

However, the biggest obstacle to forming unions is blacklists.  Thousands of migrant workers roam the plantations of Costa Rica but are unable to find work anywhere because they have been blacklisted in the banana industry.  The easiest way for a worker to be put on the black list is to call for improved working conditions or to have a history of unionization attempts.  When a person has grown up working on the banana plantations, plantation work is all they know.  They cannot afford to fight for labor rights and be put on the blacklist because it will likely mean permanent unemployment, extreme poverty or starvation.

Fear.  This is a driving force behind the success of multinational banana plantations.  Workers are afraid to speak out, afraid to fight for their rights, afraid to tell the truth.  The workers cannot afford to lose their jobs.  Del Monte can afford to fire them.  There are thousands of replacements available.  Job security can’t be found in the banana plantation dictionary.  It doesn’t exist.