WASHINGTON, D.C. (sentinel.ht) – After the Dominican Republic had instituted a September 2013 policy to denationalize more than a half-million of its citizens, as part of xenophobic disenfranchisement that would affect 2.5 million total in its territory, especially those of Haitian descent, then-U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, a Dominican-American, was looking to instead give a tacit pass to the Dominican government and its industries for human rights violations towards many Haitian migrant workers in the country.
Congratulations to Thomas Perez, who has just been named Chairman of the DNC. I could not be happier for him, or for the Republican Party!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
Thomas Perez, an establishment and corporate Democrat who was made DNC Chair on Saturday, much to the chagrin of the progressive wing of the party, was appointed by President Barack Obama to lead the Department of Labor in 2013. That summer, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Trade and Labor completed a report that it began in 2011. In this report, the department “found evidence of apparent and potential violations” of labor law and workers’ rights in the Dominican Republic that violated a free trade agreement the two countries signed in 2004.
The violations were much worse than described and more on the level of systematic violations of humanity. But for Secretary Perez’s new department, on October 3, 2013, rather than responding strongly to the abuses made against the workers and ultimately to hundreds of thousands of the country’s citizens, he instead issued a statement saying “working together with the Dominican government, we look forward to making a real difference in these workers’ lives,” U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in the aforementioned report.
Secretary Perez’s statement would also come with an announcement of a commitment of $10 million, through 2017, for the Dominican Republic. An amount more than doubling the $6 million the U.S. had given since 1998. The aims of these funds, the department said, were “to reduce child labor, expand labor rights and improve working conditions” but for Haitians living in the bateys of sugarcane plantations,these things have not changed. In fact, things have gotten worse.
Among violations cited: poor working conditions related to minimum wage; 12-hour work days; seven-day work weeks; and occupational safety and health concerns such as the lack of potable water, absence of a minimum work age and indications of forced labor, including unlawful overtime performed under threat of deportation.
“Fair trade, the fight against modern-day slavery and standing up for our commitments regarding fundamental human rights and freedoms are all issues of deep concern to the American public,” said Catholic Priest Christopher Hartley, who initially filed the complaint in 2011 which sparked the Department of Labor investigation. His parish included dozens of cane field villages, known as bateyes, where Hartley served for nine years as a church pastor before his 2006 removal by the local bishop.
The Democratic Party is going to continue to lose the support of Haitian-Americans. This important electorate of more than a quarter-million in South Florida, alone, is said by some to had likely helped Republican Donald Trump lock up the Sunshine State in November.