Witness for Peace Condemns the Attack of Union Organizers in Choluteca
On April 15th, Moisés Sánchez and his brother, Misael, were brutally attacked by four as yet unidentified assailants while conducting their work as labor organizers in the city of Choluteca, in southern Honduras.
Moisés is the Secretary General of the the sub-section of the Union of Agroindustrial Workers (STAS, for its initials in Spanish) that organizes workers who work for Melon Export, S.A., a prominent company owned by the Irish conglomerate Fyffes. Misael, who suffered deep facial wounds from a machete blow, is also active in the organization.
Speaking to the journalist Giorgio Trucchi, Moisés described the attack: “Four delinquents surrounded me. When my brother tried to approach, one of them hit him in the face with a machete. Already wounded, he took advantage of the darkness and managed to escape and find help.”
Although the assailants have not yet been identified – a legal process is underway – Moisés reports that the attack was clearly motivated by his role as an organizer: “They knew perfectly well who I am. They told me that if I continued doing what I’m doing, I would face the consequences. They threatened me openly.”
“We need all possible support,” he told Trucchi, “both nationally and internationally. The lives of so many workers who have decided to organize and defend their rights depend on it.”
Organizers in Choluteca face regular threats
STAS is associated with the Honduran Federation of Agroindustrial Workers’ Unions (FESTAGRO, for its initials in Spanish), a Witness for Peace partner organization. Witness for Peace’s Honduras International Team was recently in Choluteca, touring the melon-working areas with members of STAS and FESTAGRO, including Moisés.
Melon workers in Choluteca reported to the Witness for Peace team that attempts at organizing are regularly been met with threats and disruption, including some workers having been fired for their part in organizing. The melon workers in Choluteca allege that they are regularly denied wages, made to purchase their own working gear at the cost of approximately a week’s wages, exposed to harmful chemicals, and denied medical and other benefits.
FESTAGRO and STAS have called for a boycott of Fyffes-grown melons, 80% of which are exported to the United States.
Witness for Peace denounces this attack on Moisés and Misael Sánchez. The right to organize labor is sacrosanct, and all efforts to threaten, intimidate, harass and attack union organizers are a fundamental violation of human rights. As a US-based organization, we are particularly concerned that the majority of these melons are sold and consumed in the United States, and we urge our supporters stateside to join us in showing solidarity with STAS and FESTAGRO.