Trumka says Colombia example exposes problems with trade deals

CHICAGO – Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation is saying that the existing trade deal with Colombia shows that we can expect major problems if the Trans Pacific Partnership deal is approved by Congress. The AFL-CIO is arguing that even when protections for worker’s rights are negotiated into a trade agreement, countries, as is the case with Colombia, can violate those clauses.

A review of the facts four years after the United States and Colombia signed the Labor Action Plan to address entrenched labor rights violations, Colombian workers have suffered over 1,933 threats and acts of violence against union members. Included in the terror campaign against unions in that country during this period are 1,337 death threats and 105 actual assassinations, according to Colombia’s National Union School. Not included in those figures, horrific in and of themselves, are countless almost daily illegal firings, harassment and other forms of retaliation for union organizing, says Trumka.

“The latest report issued by the National Union School demonstrates that there has been virtually no progress over the past year in compliance with the Labor Action Plan,” Trumka said in a statement Tuesday. “It is evident that the campaign of intimidation against Colombia’s workers struggling to defend their rights continues unabated.”

The AFL-CIO, he said, “continues to stand with its Colombian brothers and sisters in demanding real action and full compliance, and supports every effort to help Colombia move towards a sustainable peace that includes full respect for fundamental labor rights.”

Trumka said the problems in Colombia are directly pertinent to the issue of approval or disapproval by Congress of the Trans Pacific Partnership deal.

“As the U.S. government negotiates broad trade agreements with Europe and the Pacific Rim, it must look back at the Labor Action Plan’s continued failure in protecting workers’ rights in Colombia, and not commit the same mistakes. It must ensure that these agreements deliver on the promises made for over twenty years about the broader benefits of expanding trade.

“Investors and companies have received these benefits,” Trumka said, “while workers have not. This has to change.”

Photo: AFL-CIO Now blog.



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.