"The Hasco Workers Unite" by Daniel Fignolé (1913-1986)

An excerpt from Fignolé’s Contribution à l’histoire du mouvement syndical en Haïti (1954). Fignolé was a teacher and a fiery populist who was loved by the poor in Port-au-Prince. President Estimé wanted Fignolé to serve as his Minister of Education. But Fignolé soon quit the government to help mobilize Haiti’s labor movement. He started at the Haitian-American Sugar Company (Hasco), as he explains below.

We have spoken about the working conditions in commercial, agricultural, and industrial enterprises in 1946 and the years that followed. For the most part, the governments in the period after 1915 have systematically exploited the misery and the ignorance of the masses, and have led the country in the best interests of a monopolistic minority. Even today the Haitian worker is a slave to production for exportation.

The advanced intellectuals, whose ideas about democracy could not be accommodated by the ruling class... initiated the movement that overthrew President Elie Lescot. We all know the active role that I had in those events. We all know that while others were personally satisfied, I wanted a more profound revolution that would change the mentality of the people and the ruling class. I proposed advanced new institutions. I formulated demands. I made conquests. I founded the Parti Populaire National. I organized mass rallies in which I denounced to the entire nation our political, economic, and social [problems] that should not exist. The Colonel Benoit O. Alexandre seemed to understand me and offered me a very high position in the Ministry of Education. But I expressed my desire to go to the people. I explained to them that I wanted to see them live in a democratic Haiti.

The workers at Hasco took to my message. Here is how they founded their workers union…

[Fignolé provides us with a letter by Hasco workers addressed to the president of the Comité Exécutif Militaire]

We who have signed below, with more than two hundred workers at Hasco, have formed a syndicate to protect our interests and ensure that our situation progressively improves. We have chosen Professor Daniel Fignolé to be our president.

We do not want to disturb the public peace. We ask that you recognize the existence and operation of our union so that we are not accused of trying to threaten the organization of our factory.

Members of the Comité Exécutif Militaire, please accept this expression of our respectful salutations.

Signed by Cormier Beauharnais and Granville Nelson

Dated 25 February 1946