LaborNet logo

Labor Newsline logo



Labor Alerts (5,700 subscribers): a free service of

Campaign for Labor Rights, a member of the Alliance for Global Justice

To subscribe or unsubscribe, send a message to <>

Web site: <>

Phone: (541) 344-5410 Fax: (541) 431-0523

Membership/newsletter: Send $35.00 to Campaign for Labor Rights, 1247 "E"

Street SE, Washington, DC 20003. Sample newsletter available on request.


posted December 28, 1999

[Information provided by the U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project:

(773) 262-6502, <>]

In this alert:

Reports link Del Monte to violence against workers

Action request

Leafleting action in Portland, Oregon

Colombia: Banana union leader's murder prompts strike



from a press statement released December 23 by the U.S./Labor Education in

the Americas Project (US/LEAP)

New reports link Florida-based Fresh Del Monte Produce to violent

intimidation of its banana workers in Guatemala. According to sworn

testimony provided to the Guatemalan national police, the chief of security

and the engineer for Del Monte's Guatemalan subsidiary, Bandegua, were both

part of a group of 200 armed men who forced the resignation of Del Monte

union leaders at gunpoint in October. A Guatemalan criminal judge has

issued warrants for the arrest of the security chief, Captain Carlos

Enrique Hernandez Diaz, and the engineer, Teodoro Jimenez. Sources say the

security chief has been working on Del Monte's Guatemalan plantations since

October despite complaints made to Del Monte.

Union leaders also reported that the alleged "commander" of the 200 armed

thugs, Mr. Obdulio Mendoza Matta, is now helping run one of Del Monte's

plantations previously worked by the ousted union. Mr. Mendoza has

reportedly hired workers and supervises production at the Arapahoe

plantation, one of the three plantations in the Bobos district of Morales

that are at the center of the conflict between Fresh Del Monte and the union.

In response to this evidence that three men allegedly involved in the

violent intimidation of the union are working on the Del Monte plantations,

US/LEAP Executive Director Stephen Coats called on Mr. Abu-Ghazeleh, CEO

for Del Monte, to immediately suspend doing business with anyone involved

in the violent intimidation and to return to the negotiating table with the


"Two months ago Del Monte issued a public statement disclaiming any

connection to the violent intimidation of its union leaders. Now we find

that Del Monte is doing business with the man who is accused in court

documents as one of the main perpetrators of the violence and that a

Guatemalan criminal judge has issued arrest warrants for two other men

employed by the company, one of whom reportedly continues to work as the

company's chief of security. Mr. Abu-Ghazeleh, actions speak louder than

words, " said Coats.

"The company has apparently decided to reward those who forced its union

leaders to resign at gunpoint and flee for their lives. What kind of

message do you think this sends to the workers remaining on the

plantations?" notes Enrique Villeda, the banana union's Secretary of Conflicts.

"The company seems to be taking advantage of the violent intimidation of

the union," concludes Coats.

In mid October 200 armed men raided a union hall where union leaders and

members were planning a legal walkout to protest mass firings on the Del

Monte plantations in Guatemala. These members were forced at gunpoint to

resign, call off the walkout and leave their homes or risk death. The

company has hired non-union replacement workers who are receiving 20% less

wages and none of the benefits the union gained such as housing, education

for their children and health. An international campaign has been launched

to support the right of the workers to reach a fair resolution with the


Fresh Del Monte Produce (fresh fruit) is a separate company from Del Monte

Foods (canned vegetables).



The following action request, which first appeared in our December 13

alert, remains a top priority. NOTE: The talking points have been updated

on the basis on new revelations about Del Monte's links to anti-worker


Get Del Monte off the shelves for two weeks.

Please ask any stores in your community that carry Del Monte bananas to

stop stocking them for two weeks as an act of solidarity with the workers

in Guatemala. We encourage strengthening this request by mentioning your

organizational affiliations and also mentioning the possibility of

leafleting (if applicable, of course). But, even if you do not have

organizational connections or if future leafleting actions are not a

possibility, please contact local stores by phone or in person and request

that they not stock Del Monte bananas for two weeks. LET US KNOW IF YOU

CONTACT LOCAL STORES and what the response is. You can make your report by

email <> or phone (541) 344-5410.

Note: Whether or not local stores agree to keep Del Monte bananas off the

shelves for two weeks, once the national headquarters of the chains hear

that consumers are raising concerns about Del Monte, they are almost

certain to contact Del Monte and complain that its bananas are creating

public relations problems.

Talking points: In October, following the illegal firing of 900 Del Monte

banana workers in Guatemala, banana union leaders were violently forced at

gunpoint to renounce their union and to flee for their lives. Although Del

Monte denies that its representatives had anything to do with this serious

human rights violation, sworn testimony now links two Del Monte employees

to the group of 200 armed men who forced the resignation of the union

leaders. Moreover, the alleged leader of these armed thugs is now helping

run one of Del Monte's plantations previously worked by the ousted union.

Del Monte has profited from this violence in its drive to bust the banana

worker union in Guatemala. In order to pressure Del Monte to deal fairly

with its workers, we are asking stores which carry Del Monte not to stock

those bananas for two weeks and to let Del Monte headquarters know why they

are taking this action. Stores can contact Del Monte via phone (305)

520-8400 or fax (305) 442-1059. This action has the support of the banana




Activists from the Cross Border Labor Organizing Coalition in Portland,

Oregon leafleted at Zupan's, the only Portland outlet they had identified

for Del Monte bananas. CBLOC reported a very favorable response from customers.



[Information provided by the Weekly News Update on the Americas, issue

#516: (212) 674-9499, <>, the Colombian Labor Monitor:

<> and US/LEAP]

Some 18,000 banana workers and other members of the Agricultural Workers

Union (Sintrainagro) in Colombia began a 48-hour strike on December 14 to

protest the murder of union leader Cesar Johny Herrera Torreglosa. Herrera

was general secretary of Sintrainagro, one of the strongest agricultural

worker unions in Latin America. He was shot to death on December13 by

unidentified assailants at the union offices in Cienaga. Sintrainagro

president Guillermo Rivera Zapata said that Herrera had been on a list of

15 Sintrainagro leaders threatened with death and that the government

failed to take any action to provide protection.


Colombia has the world's highest number of assassinations of labor leaders,

journalists and human rights activists. In the great majority of cases,

these assassinations are carried out by paramilitary death squads working

hand-in-glove with Colombia's military. Under the guise of anti-drug

efforts, the Clinton administration is pushing for more than a billion

dollars in increased military aid to Colombia, in spite of the military's

involvement in gross human rights abuses and in spite of the fact that its

paramilitary allies are known to be far more involved in the narcotics

trade than are the guerrillas. If approved by Congress, this aid would

result in even more assassinations of Colombian labor leaders - and quite

possibly would facilitate an increased flow of illegal drugs from Colombia

to the United States.



Online communications for a democratic labor movement.
This page is maintained by
Copyright 1999 LaborNet