Labour rights organizations call for action after Guatemalan union leader’s murder

Photo: Nic McPhee Flickr

On June 15, 2024, Guatemalan union leader Anastacio Tzib Caal was murdered in Villa Canales, outside of Guatemala City. With a long trajectory of promoting worker rights in the garment industry, he had recently been elected general secretary of the SITRATEXPIA II union at SAE-A Trading Corporation’s Texpia II apparel factory, which produces clothing for several well-known international brands, including Carhartt, Target and Walmart. Other major brands, including Gap and Polo Ralph Lauren, source from other SAE-A-owned factories in Guatemala.

MSN joins our Guatemalan and international labour rights allies in expressing our solidarity with his family, two children, union brothers and sisters, and wider community, and in supporting a thorough and transparent investigation of the murder under the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Unionists to identify the material and intellectual authors of the crime. Shortly after the murder, the Minister of Labour of the newly elected Guatemalan government publicly called for an “exhaustive, transparent and expeditious investigation.” 

Prior to the murder, members of SITRATEXPIA II had been receiving threats at the factory. Three months ago, death threats against the union leaders appeared on bathroom walls. The newly formed union reported the threats to factory management, who took some steps to address the issue, such as reading a freedom of association statement to all factory workers.  In spite of these efforts, there was a resurgence of threats in recent weeks.

After the murder, the Network of Maquila Unions of Guatemala (RSM-GT) urged the factory’s management and parent company SAE-A Trading Corporation to join the demand for a thorough investigation and to ensure the physical safety and free exercise of rights for workers and union members.

The Solidarity Center, Worker Rights Consortium and MSN have also urged brand buyers like Carhartt, Target and Gap to redouble their commitments to freedom of association and collective bargaining with their suppliers; support the union’s proposed labour-management plan to counter the perception that union activism is synonymous with death; and maintain their commitments to creating good jobs in Guatemala in partnership with SAE-A Trading.

The Solidarity Center is providing direct support to SITRATEXPA II on the ground, and is participating in the union’s negotiations with the company. The union is demanding that the company pay Mr. Tzib Caal’s dependents all his outstanding wages, vacation pay, statutory benefits, and severance pay, as required by law. It is also calling for anti-violence and freedom of association training for all employees.

Union organizing has long been considered dangerous in Guatemala, with 111 trade unionists murdered since 2004.  Guaranteeing the right to freedom of association will be key to creating and maintaining good jobs in Guatemala’s apparel sector, especially as a number of major brands may be expanding the number of supplier factories they use in the country.

For more information: