In Re Guatemalan Workers’ Rights – Economic Rights – CCR Docket Spring 1994

CCR and Yale’s Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic investigated legal means by which claims could be brought against U.S. corporations operating in Guatemala in violation of Guatemalan labor law. This effort to hold U.S. corpo­rations accountable for their acts affect­ing workers in other countries, similar to the Pico case resulted in a different outcome, however.

Guatemala, which has a large indige­nous population, is a target for economic exploitation by western corporations, particularly those from the U.S., which use a “free trade” agenda to gain tax breaks and disregard local labor laws in search of expanding markets. The gov­ernment is notorious for its human rights violations, and allows a repressive envi­ronment to dampen labor organizing and proper enforcement of labor laws by for­eign corporations.

Working with local Guatemalan labor groups and U.S. solidarity organizations, CCR and the Yale Clinic researched the following issues: labor law in both coun­tries, international statutes regarding foreign corporations, and the possibility of enforcement in the U.S. courts.

However, in July 1993, before any legal action was initiated, a labor dispute at a U.S. corporation in Guatemala was resolved, resulting in the recognition of a workers’ union and a labor agreement.

Lawyers involved in the research believed that the successful resolution most likely occurred because news was circulating of the possibility of a suit, saying, “It may not have made new international labor law, but it certainly added a new dimension to international labor solidarity.”

Jose Luis Morin and Michael Ratner, with Lance Campa of the Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic of Yale Law School