WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
31 Jul 2010

Obama Administration Actions on Labor Rights in Guatemala: A Step in the Right Direction

Today, the Obama Administration initiated consultations with the Guatemalan government for failing to enforce its labor laws under the CAFTA-DR agreement, an important step in eliminating labor rights violations in Central America, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

"Labor rights violations and violence against workers is a chronic and endemic problem in Guatemala," stated Vicki Gass, a WOLA analyst and author of numerous reports on labor rights and trade agreements in the region. WOLA's latest report on the issue showed that the Central American governments are unable or unwilling to enforce laws, reform labor legislation or enforce legal judgments. In Guatemala, for example, a 2004 Constitutional Court decision prevents the Labor Ministry from imposing fines against companies that violate labor laws. During the trade negotiations, the Guatemalan government agreed to reverse that decision, but has not done so – a clear indication that it lacks the will to protect its workers.  

"The Obama Administration's action is a step in the right direction given the grave situation facing Guatemalan workers," said Gass. "This move offers an opportunity to test whether the labor rights mechanisms in CAFTA-DR are sufficient enough to get governments to fulfill their obligations," she added.

For more information, contact:
Vicki Gass, 202-797-2171