"The Haitian Labor Movement" by Michel Hector, Ph.D.

Hector is President of the Haitian Society of History and Geography. And he has written and edited numerous books, such as Syndicalisme et socialisme en Haïti, 1932-1970 (1989), Crises et mouvements populaires en Haïti (2000), and Genèse de l'Etat haïtien (2013).

When the new government of Estimé was installed in August 1946, the labor movement strengthened considerably compared to the situation that prevailed under the military junta that oversaw Estimé’s transition to power. Attempts to organize widened. Struggles multiplied. Political parties that sided with proletarian interests deployed great activity in the world of the worker. It was under this government that a Bureau of Labor was created to resolve conflicts. In addition, various laws were passed to regulate trade union activity, strikes, social security, etc. This was a real boost, the first seen by the Haitian labor movement.

Three labor federations appeared over the course of this period. They were la Fédération des Travailleurs Haïtiens/Federation of Haitian Workers (FTH), which was strongly influenced by socialism; an organization called les Syndicats d’Ouvriers et des Travailleurs/Labor Unions and Workers (SOT), which united unions allied to popular labor leader and politician Daniel Fignolé; and a group of independent unions, the only federation of its time that claimed to unite workers based on profession. Given its orientation, this last one was more like la Fédération des Travailleurs Haïtiens than les Syndicats d’Ouvriers et de Travailleurs. Although la Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne/Young Christian Workers (JOC) failed to establish a labor federation of its own like le Parti Social Chrétien/Social Christian Party founded around this time, it nonetheless tried to establish an organized presence for the Catholic Church in the working class, and so it must be mentioned.

These three federations enjoyed unrivaled power. Without a doubt, the Fignoliste current had influence beyond the unions that were directly affiliated with it. With Fignolé’s grand ascendancy behind the masses in Port-au-Prince and nearby areas, it had deeply penetrated the proletariat in the capital. Its positions, apparently socialist, but at the same time anti-communist, added to the confusion and division between the forces of labor. At the time, however, it was clearly on the side of Haiti’s democratic forces. As for the FTH, it did not have anywhere near the political influence of Fignolisme. Nevertheless it was the organization that came closest to the democratic interests of the entire proletariat.