The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) involves the United States along with six other countries and is the latest corporate-led trade deal promoted by the U.S. government. Congress is expected to vote on CAFTA this spring.

The U.S. government utilizes powerful financial institutions like the IMF, World Bank and global trade treaties like NAFTA and CAFTA to help multinational corporations gain more control of human and natural resources across the world and outsource more jobs from the United States.

Trade agreements like CAFTA encourage U.S. corporations to move production anywhere in the world — where wages are lowest, environmental regulations aren’t enforced, and practices such as child labor and prison labor are tolerated. As if it’s not bad enough that our jobs often get moved to these countries, our tax dollars also pay for the U.S. military to help foreign governments repress workers.

The U.S. government funds foreign militaries and police forces, U.S. weapon-makers supply them, and the U.S. military trains them in harsh command and control tactics at places like the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga. The result is repression of community organizers, militarization of their society, and more control of resources by the rich and powerful of this world.

Colombia is one of the worst examples. They have plenty of oil and large U.S.-based multinationals in Colombia, which should help explain things. The worldwide total of murdered union leaders for 2003 was reported to be 123, three-quarters of them in Colombia. The U.S. government funds these Colombia military/paramilitary forces via legislation called Plan Colombia. See www.killercoke.org to learn more about what union leaders face at a U.S.-based multinational corporation operating in Colombia.

It is in the interest of every American worker to see conditions improve for workers everywhere. Higher wages, human/labor rights, and the right to organize for economic justice everywhere in the world will reduce the corporate agenda of pitting workers against each other. It will also reduce the need for working families to migrate elsewhere to provide the basics for their children.

The U.S. military/economic strategies haven’t changed much in the last 100 years. Major Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC, wrote in 1933, “…I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

Please contact your U.S. congressional representative to request that they oppose CAFTA and Plan Colombia. For additional information about CAFTA, see www.citizenstrade.org. For alternative economic models on global trade, see www.art-us.org. Look up your members of Congress at www.congress.org.

Todd Erickson is active with the Communications Workers of America Local 7200, Veterans for Peace and the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition. This article is reprinted from WorkdayMinnesota.org.