Friday, August 6, 2010
HAITI WORKS : MAKING IT IN HAITI, FACTORIES AND FARMLANDS
This document summarizes the interviews, conversations and observations chiefly of Randy Mont-Reynaud, and of Elisee Abraham, working together in urban and rural Haiti, June 13 to July 16, 2010. They were accompanied and assisted by Destin Francois, who did some photography and managed logistics, and Kloteed Abraham, who shared observations, clarified questions and answers and was key for obtaining much of the market price information
Goals and objectives
Incomes and Expenses. The goal of the pilot study was to ascertain the relationship between the cost of living and factory workers’ wage earnings. At the conclusion of the field work, Dr. Mont-Reynaud felt that a better term, “cost of surviving,” is not too much of an exaggeration to substitute for “cost of living.” Henceforth, this report will refer to the “cost of surviving,” and “wages.”
Perceptions. An important, related objective of the pilot work was to gather perceptions, held by Haitians, of Americans doing businesses in Haiti since the Dougadougou, or “EQ” (Earthquake of Jan. 12). Do Haitians feel American business are a force for good? Do they feel that such business helps the country? What role does or should U.S. business play?
Earnings and Equity. The major thrust of interviews was framed in several key questions: What are some general feelings about industrial development, wages, and working conditions. What are Haitian feelings about wage earnings, about what Haitians earn and what Americans earn?
Subsidiary Goal. The principal researcher, Dr. Mont-Reynaud, also created a subsidiary but not unimportant goal of the pilot work: to expose a small team of rural Haitians to the research process, and to train them in the interview process, photography, and collection of interview data.
Participants in the Pilot Study
Sample and Sample Constraints. Although the target population was initially urban-dwelling factory workers with at least one year experience in textile plants, Dr. Mont-Reynaud chose to extend the questions to suburban (Kafou) and to a remote, mountain zone in Southeastern Haiti, Zoranje zone, above the plain of Leogane.
As it turns out, including this rural group provides an important perspective on Haitian perceptions of foreign investment and business efforts, and any generalizations one would care to make about work, wages and the cost of surviving in Haiti today.
We met with men and women currently working in factories, mostly textile workers. We stayed at the homes of some workers, in the center of the capital and in the area of Kafou (Carrefour). With the exception of 3 individuals, who had been employed at SONAPI only since the earthquake, all participants have been working in textiles or light assembly either at SONAPI or other factory near the airport for at least 1 year prior to the earthquake. Some participants said they had worked 15 years in the textile industry.
Also included in the pilot study are the responses of men and women who had “retired” from factory work for one reason or the other (marriage, re-location, laid off) as well as those who had never worked in factories, but were at SONAPI in other capacities (electricians, plant managers, ti machan (market vendors, cooks).
In the suburb and rural communities, we met with “retired” factory workers who had relocated to the countryside, as well as men and women who did other work (“travay te” agricultural workers, ti machan, peddlers, day laborers, teachers, clergy).
Unfortunately, because of time constraints, we were not able to meet with workers actively involved in workers’ rights groups – although we had been invited to their Saturday meetings in the city. Here, we might have heard more criticisms, not to say negative remarks, about factory work, pay and working conditions. From one organization, we did obtain a list of 28 textile factories compliant with current laws and the minimum wage standard.
From this diverse spectrum, from city to country, from young to old, from “niveau” to experienced, we hope to gain a sense of Haitians’ perceptions towards doing business with Americans and other “blan,” the priorities of the country, and attitudes towards factory employment, wages and conditions.
We looked for commonalities and differences from city to countryside, across genders and ages. We found them.