Haiti has raised the minimum wage by 12.5% for the country’s approximately 29,000 apparel workers, the Associated Press reports. Under the new law, workers who sew together T-shirts and other clothing will earn about $5.11 per eight-hour workday, falling short of the equivalent of $11.36 a day protesting garment workers have demanded.
Clothing factories have been in Haiti for decades. Initially, the plants made baseballs, but now they turn out T-shirts for major North American retailers. About two-thirds of the country's 10 million people lack formal employment, and the garment industry is among the few formal sources of income, according to the Associated Press.
The last time Haiti's parliament approved a minimum wage raise was in 2009, increasing the daily rate from about $1.50 to $4.50 over three years. It also established a separate minimum wage for garment workers who can earn as much as $6.81 daily if they meet production quotas. Labor groups have said the quotas were not realistic, however.
The U.S.-based Worker Rights Consortium said in a recent report that Haitian workers receive an average of 32% less than they should. An earlier report stated that Haiti's 24 garment factories failed to pay even the minimum wage.
The organization says the latest increase is a small step in the right direction. "It means a modest increase, but it was a lot less than what workers were asking for," Scott Nova, executive director of the consortium, told the AP.
Industry apparel suppliers, though, are taking note of Haiti's socially progressive agenda when it comes to manufacturing. Boxercraft (asi/41325) was looking for a new manufacturer of its T-shirts and tank tops last year when it settled on Industrial Revolution II, a Haiti-based garment manufacturer. The company was sold on purchasing products from Industrial Revolution, which is backed by designer Donna Karan and actor Matt Damon, because the manufacturer promises to train unemployed Haitians, pay them more than the minimum wage, and donate half of its profits to social programs.
Shoppers are "feeling responsible for the actual employee that is making the products that everyone is wearing today," Boxercraft CEO Shelley Foland said last year.