Costa Rica | UNIONS | DOLE

With Obeth Morales

Dole’s scheming moves to undermine the union

Agroindustrial Piñas del Bosque S.A. – Finca Muelle, a Costa Rica-based subsidiary of the Standard Fruit Company Dole, has been implementing a systematic anti-union policy, employing several tricks and bringing in outside actors complicit in such practices. Escuela Social Juan XXIII is one of those actors.

Giorgio Trucchi | Rel UITA

(Mural in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay) | Photo: Gerardo Iglesias

Escuela Social Juan XXIII (John XXIII Social School) is an institution of the Catholic Church. Its activities include advising companies, fostering “worker-management collaboration and contributing to social peace in the country.” In short, it promotes “solidarism.”

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, solidarism was born precisely in Costa Rica as an organizational way of countering, weakening, and wiping out trade unionism.

It is furthered by employers themselves through the establishment of permanent committees and by avoiding collective bargaining and signing direct arrangements that do very little for the workers.

In the case of Dole in Costa Rica, Escuela Social Juan XXIII provides advice to all the pineapple and banana plantations of this company.

More scheming

Last week, the National Union of Agroindustry and Related Industry Workers (Sinatraa) became aware that there were plans underway to form a new permanent committee in the Agroindustrial Piñas del BosqueFinca Muelle plantation.

When the unionists started looking into it, they discovered that the old committee had been dissolved and that a member of Escuela Social Juan XXIII was going around to every plantation department or area with the aim of organizing the establishment of a new committee.

The constituent assembly was finally scheduled for August 10 and it was held in three parts on different shifts.

“It was all very odd. There was no collective conflict over any economic or social issue that would justify forming a new committee. Nor was there a list of demands and the assembly was to be hosted and chaired by someone from outside,” Sinatraa general secretary Obeth Morales told La Rel.

“We immediately communicated our discontent to management. But we received no reply. We then asked for union permission to participate and, as always, it was denied. Meanwhile, the space where the assembly was to be held was being set up and production was stopped so that workers could attend. And I would really like to know who paid the Juan XXIII representatives,” Morales said.

One does not need to be a genius to realize that Dole had a direct interest in the forming of this new committee, which, as usual, responds to the interests of management and does not represent the workers.

Juan XXIII: A school of what, exactly?

Despite being denied permission, Obeth Morales and other union officials decided to attend the assembly. Other workers brought signs against the “intrusion” of Escuela Social Juan XXIII.

“It was awful. The Juan XXIII representatives who were chairing the assembly stopped me from taking the floor or cut me off when I was addressing the workers. They were also trying to get the workers to sign a piece of paper, making it seem like they were merely taking down attendance, when it was actually the list that would later be attached to the document for the establishment of the permanent committee,” the union leader explained.

But the worst thing was when the Juan XXIII people announced to everyone present that the company would only pay the day’s wages to the workers who signed.

Despite that attempt to blackmail them, almost 200 workers (approximately a third of the payroll) decided not to sign.

“We are going to challenge the establishment of the permanent committee. The assembly was split up into different parts and they never reached the necessary quorum. And there was no collective conflict or list of demands,” Morales said.

“The intervention of Juan XXIII, which clearly has a direct relationship with management, was not legal, and neither is the sneaky way in which they got workers to sign. This is an outright fraud,” he declared categorically.

And he stressed that workers will continue “firm and united, with national and international support and solidarity backing them.”

“The workers are very sure of that,” he concluded.