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#887: Update on Caribbean Trade Bill (fwd)

From: Merrill Smith <advocacy@bellatlantic.net>

1) Update on Africa/Caribbean Trade Bill
2) Global Exchange's dubious Gap Campaign

1) Update on Africa/Caribbean Trade Bill

We just came from behind to score a major victory! 

On Friday October 29, things couldn't have looked gloomier. The
Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate were at an impasse over
unrelated amendments and it looked like the Africa/Caribbean Basin trade
bill (HR 434) would be a sacrificial lamb to the gods of petty
partisanship. Fortunately, a flood of criticism forced the parties back
to the table to hammer out an agreement. When we finally got to the
floor, Wednesday, November 3, the legislation passed the Senate by a
stunning 76-19 margin! 

(To see how your senators voted, go to

Our goal now is to get the bill to Conference where House and Senate
committee leaders will meet to resolve differences between the different
versions. Hopefully, this will take place before this session of
Congress ends. More important, however, is to get a _good_ compromise --
one that lets the countries of the region use more of their own locally
produced material in products for the U.S. market, i.e., one more like
the House bill HR 984.

To that end, we have run a full-page ad in today's issue of Roll Call,
the congressional newspaper with more than 100 church, union, civic
organization and notable individual endorsements. To see the text of the
ad and the endorsements, go to

Once again, we need to call our Senators and House Representatives. Ask
them to speak to their leadership and pass on this message:  We want the
House version of CBI enhancement included in the final Conference Report
on HR 434 and we want it passed this session. (If your Senator(s) voted
with us Wednesday, be sure to say thanks!)

2) Global Exchange's dubious Gap Campaign

It has come to our attention that Global Exchange is sending out an
email broadcast (subject title: "END CORPORATE RULE") calling upon

We have responded to Global Exchange asking weather the Gap workers were
on strike and/or calling for a boycott and whether they had granted
permission to shut down the retail outlets where their products are
being sold. It's been three days no and I have received no response nor
seen any evidence that this is so.

Folks should remember that it was just such a campaign around Disney's
subcontracts in Haiti that cost some 2300 Haitian workers their jobs --
i.e., nearly a tenth of the entire export assembly sector at that time.
The workers were not on strike nor were they calling for a boycott.
Nevertheless, stateside activists went ahead with their pickets and
‘Mickey-is-a-Rat!' publicity campaign outside Disney outlets in the
U.S., eventually leading to Disney's contractor, HH Cutler, pulling out
of Haiti. The results were catastrophic! (Hopefully, with the campaign
for CBI enhancement, we can get some of those jobs back.)

I'm sure most participants sincerely believed that this was a campaign
for the benefit of Haitian workers. In fact, it was financed by the
American apparel sector union who lost its contracts with HH Cutler in
Michigan. In other words, it was a protectionist campaign against
‘runaway shops,' not a campaign for Haitian workers at all.

If the Gap workers are on strike and asking for a boycott, we should
consider supporting them. But if its just a protectionist gambit or some
ideological crusade (e.g., to "end corporate rule"), I would urge
caution. Remember, access to markets is the sine qua non of all labor

P.S. To see a list of labor federations representing the vast majority
of organized labor in the Caribbean and Central America supporting CBI
enhancement, go to
Merrill Smith
Haiti Advocacy, Inc.
1309 Independence Avenue SE
Washington DC 20003-2302
(202) 544-9084
(202) 547-2952 fax