On Monday, I attended a packed meeting hosted by the Inter-Religious Task Force here in Cleveland, OH hosting a main spokesman and labor leader from Guadeloupe. If you don't know about the awesome workers movement which took place there earlier this year, hopefully this post will change that. The event was a reminder of the massive effect everyday people can have on international debates about globalization and development.
The headliner of the event was Elie Domota, who I had a chance to speak with personally after the official program. Elie Domota is the secretary general of the UGTG, the main trade union in Guadeloupe. He is also spokesman of the Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP), which means the Movement Against Exploitation in creole. The general strike which began January 2009 in Guadeloupe over widespread anger about living standards, brought 100,000 people into the streets in a country of only 400,000.
The strike was met with repression by the French military and police who in 2009 still consider Guadeloupe as a region of France---thousands of miles away. A historian from Guadeloupe also shared a brief history of political events and the workers movement in Guadeloupe. In the midst of the general strike, an uprising occurred in the streets of Guadeloupe pitting protesters against the French authorities and a young man was killed in the chaos. When an agreement was finally reached on increases in the average wage of Guadeloupe, it was named in honor of the fallen protester, Jaques Renee.
A translator assisted Elie as he spoke to the audience about the general strike through his own eyes. A video was also shown as well detailing key movements of the struggle, its highs and lows. The full edited version hasn't been released yet but is expected soon. Alternative media station, Democracy Now, did a good piece earlier this year about the historic protests that you can follow by clicking here.
There was a fairly large and diverse crowd for the event and after all was said and done the audience had the opportunity to ask questions of both Elie and a Haitian labor leader who spoke about the UN's unjust actions in his country. Many consider UN presence in Haiti today nothing short of an occupation including horror stories of rape of young girls and repression of political parties.
There was so much information presented at the event, that there isn't enough space here in this blog to do it justice. What I can say is that if you have not heard about the workers movement in Guadeloupe, it is definitely worth taking a very close look at. In conversations about global development, the Caribbean is often overlooked. However, like Africa and South Asia the region is what with persistent poverty, inequality and populations hungry for social change.
Below are some pictures I took on my camera phone from the event. You can expect to hear much more from me about the ongoing sagas in both Guadeloupe and Haiti.