Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) on March 7 picketed the Honduran Consulate in San Francisco to support Honduran dock workers facing human rights violations.
The Honduran government last year contracted with ICTSI to privatize terminal operations at Puerto Cortės, the nation’s largest port.
The government and ICTSI, a global company based in the Philippines, have been acting in concert to retaliate against workers who oppose a labor agreement between the government and the company that gives ICTSI free rein to fire workers who are members of SGTM, the dock workers union.
SGTM members and leaders have received death threats and members of the union have been rounded up and arrested.
“ICTSI and the government of Honduras need to stop violating the human rights of these dock workers,” said Bob McEllrath, president of ILWU, who along with about 100 ILWU members were picketing the consulate.
In 2013, ICTSI and the government signed the labor agreement without consulting the SGTM. Union members never had a chance to vote on the agreement.
When the union protested the sham agreement, union leaders started receiving death threats.
One union leader, Victor Crespo, had to leave the country after a group of armed men tried to invade his home and kill him. Crespo’s father was later killed and his mother injured when they were run over by a truck outside their home.
In December, ICTSI began hiring workers who weren’t SGTM members and firing those who were members.
Things came to a head in February when SGTM members demonstrated at Puerto Cortės against the firings. The Honduran military invaded the port and arrested 129 of the participants charging them with terrorism and damaging the national economy.
On March 4, four SGTM members traveled to Oregon where ICTSI operates a terminal at the Port of Portland. They established a picket line at the ICTSI terminal and carried signs saying “SGTM locked out (by) ICTSI.”
Portland ILWU members refused to cross the picket line.
When the SGTM members returned to Honduras, they learned that the National Police and an ICTSI representative had visited SGTM headquarters looking for two of the SGTM leaders who traveled to Portland, Carlos Alvarado and Glen Galdames. The police were planning to arrest the two for taking part in the Portland demonstration.
The San Francisco demonstration was aimed at exposing the repressive collusion between ICTSI and the Honduran government.
A hand delivered letter to the US Embassy in Honduras from the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center also charged the Honduran government with collusion to suppress worker rights.
“It is . . . disturbing that the Honduran government and police appear to be acting on behalf of and under the direction of ICTSI, and that the company provided the Honduran government and police with the information of the protest in Portland and the picture of the SGTM members from the Oregonian,” reads the letter from Solidarity Center. “That ICTSI is utilizing its influence with the Honduran police to conduct reprisals on SGTM members’ raises even further concern about issues of corruption within the Honduran police and a continued failure by the Honduran police to respect and uphold human rights.”
After the police tried to arrest Alvarado and Galdames, Crespo returned from exile and immediately filed human rights violation complaints with Honduran national authorities.
The International Transportation Federation (ITF) , a worldwide federation of transport unions, praised Crespo for his courage and warned the government that ITF will support Crespo and SGTM in their fight to regain work that rightfully belongs to SGTM members.
“Victor is fully aware that his return to Honduras puts his life in immediate danger,” said Stephen Cotton, ITF acting general secretary. “He is standing with his members in a time of need for union rights, the survival of his union, and for democracy. The ITF family will stand shoulder to shoulder with the SGTM and the dockers in Puerto Cortės to ensure that attacks that threaten lives and union rights cease.”