Schakowsky, Farr Release Joint Statement on Letter to U.S. Ambassador to Honduras on Labor Rights Concerns

January 15, 2016
Press Release

Today, Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Sam Farr (D-CA) along with 28 other House Members, sent a letter to United States Ambassador to Honduras James D. Nealon raising their concerns about the urgent situation facing trade unionists in the country and that he immediately contact Honduran authorities to address this crisis.

Since the military coup in 2009, 31 trade unionists have been killed in Honduras. In 2015, there were nine violent attacks alone against trade unionists. The threats against prominent union members across the country only continue to grow, exacerbating the climate of fear amongst those who are simply fighting for fair wages and workers’ rights.

Representatives Schakowsky and Farr released the following statement below:

“Across the globe the rights of workers to organize and fight for fair wages and safety standards are under attack,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “In Honduras the situation has reached a critical point, with over 30 trade unionists having been killed since the military coup in 2009. That is why I, Representative Farr and 28 other House Members have taken action to address this urgent crisis by sending a letter to Ambassador Nealon urging him to contact Honduran authorities over these repeated attacks against workers. I will continue to monitor this issue because those who are fighting for a better life should not have to live in fear.”

“The right to organize must be protected everywhere,” said Rep. Farr. “The recently announced Labor Rights Monitoring and Action Plan is a step in the right direction. However, its implementation will take time and it does not address all aspects of the labor rights crisis in Honduras. The recent threats against trade unionists require immediate action.”



Text of Letter:

Dear Ambassador Nealon:

We are writing to express our concern regarding the urgent situation of trade unionists in Honduras, who continue to face death threats and other forms of intimidation. We respectfully request that you contact the Honduran authorities, including the Attorney General’s Office and the National Human Rights Commission, and ask that they act immediately to effectively address this crisis.

At least 31 trade unionists have been killed since the 2009 military coup. The AFL-CIO reports that nine violent attacks against Honduran trade unionists occurred in 2015 alone. These attacks include the June assassination of Héctor Orlando Martínez Motiño, President of the Workers Union for the Centro Universitario del Litoral Pacífico (CURLP) and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (UNAH). He had been granted protective measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and according to media reports, he was the 14th person with protective measures who has been assassinated. His murder occurred 69 days after the April forced disappearance of Donatilo Jiménez Euceda, who was a former president of this same union at Centro Universitario del Litoral Atlántico (CURLA) in La Ceiba.

Most recently, threats have accelerated against the staff of the Federation of Unions of Agro-Industrial Workers (FESTAGRO, formerly COSIBAH). As you know, FESTAGRO is one of the key groups named in a 2015 U.S. Department of Labor report that details serious concerns regarding the lack of effective enforcement of labor laws in Honduras.

On August 31 and September 3, 2015, Tomás Membreño Pérez, president of the agricultural workers union, Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria (STAS), a union affiliated with FESTAGRO, received death threats targeting him and his family. On at least three separate occasions since October 25, vehicles without license plates have visited the home of Nelson Geovanni Nuñez Chavez, FESTAGRO’s Technical Advisor for Organization, and have reportedly taken pictures, terrifying his wife. On December 6, strangers inquired about his whereabouts at the home of a member of his extended family while his young daughters were present. The entire family has had to abandon their home.

These recent incidents are not the first time that members of FESTAGRO’s staff have come under threat. In 2014, José María Martínez, Director of Communications for FESTAGRO, was forced to flee the country after he received numerous death threats throughout 2013 and 2014.

Honduran authorities have failed to act effectively in all these cases. We believe that the recently announced Labor Rights Monitoring and Action Plan is a step in the right direction. However, the implementation of the plan will take time, and it will not address all aspects of the labor rights crisis in Honduras. Meanwhile, threats against trade unionists require immediate action.

As such, we urge you to communicate your alarm about these threats against labor activists to the Government of Honduras, and to press the government to denounce these attacks. We further urge you to ask the Honduran government to immediately offer protection to Tomás Membreño and Nelson Nuñez in the form of their own choosing, if they request it. In addition, we request that you reiterate the importance of effective criminal investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of the perpetrators in each of these cases, all of which remain in impunity.

It is critical that the U.S. government speak out in support of workers who are facing retaliation for exercising their basic rights to freedom of association and for denouncing violations of Honduran labor law. We appreciate your serious and immediate consideration of these requests, and we look forward to hearing what steps have been taken on behalf of these threatened unionists.


Member of Congress

Member of Congress

Van Hollen
H. Johnson