Banana workers press demands

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Jan 18 08:20:30 MST 2003

NY Times, Jan. 18, 2003
Banana Workers Get Day in Court

CHINANDEGA, Nicaragua — Manuel Guido Montoya never had the children he once 
hoped would ease his workload and bring home a few extra dollars. Years 
ago, he tried to start a family, he said, but the woman left him once she 
realized he was sterile.

Like scores of men and women in this banana-growing region — and thousands 
of field workers throughout Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and the 
Philippines — Mr. Guido blames dibromochloropropane, or DBCP, for his 
medical problems. The pesticide was banned in much of the United States in 
1977 when it was found to cause sterility, but continued to be used for 
years in the banana plantations that supply American supermarkets.

For two decades, the workers say, their efforts to win compensation for the 
damage done by DBCP — including sterility, cancer, and birth defects in 
children — have been frustrated by the legal tactics of American chemical 
and fruit companies. But now they are getting their day in court.

A ruling by a federal judge in New Orleans has opened the way for a lawsuit 
brought by 3,000 Central American banana workers seeking millions in 
damages, the first time one of these cases would be tried in the United 
States. The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday on 
whether or not to allow other DBCP lawsuits to be tried in state courts.

And over the objections of the Bush administration, which has pressed the 
Nicaraguan government on behalf of the corporate defendants, courts here 
have begun awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to banana 

The companies facing lawsuits are giants of the chemical and fruit 
industries: Shell Oil, Dow Chemical and Occidental Chemical; Dole Food, Del 
Monte Fresh Produce and Chiquita Brands International.


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