Since 2005, more than half the trade unionists murdered in the world have been killed in Colombia. That's more in Colombia alone than in the other 190+ countries combined. Just last year, 51 more trade unionists were murdered bringing the total since 1986 to over 2700. Unfortunately, President Obama is ignoring these facts to push for the long-stalled Colombia Free Trade Agreement, a relic of the Bush Administration, in a move that can only be seen as an affront to his union base.
Not only is Colombia the most dangerous place in the world for union activity, an implied complicity with Colombia's government, in particular the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), has led to an approximate 96% impunity rating. Could you imagine the U.S. response if over the course of 2010, there were one CEO murder per week in Colombia with little investigation and few convictions or punishments? It certainly wouldn't be to liberalize trade rules.
Sadly, the President knows and understands the plight of unionists, peasant leaders, Afro-Colobians, and other organizers in Colombia. He even campaigned against the FTA because of such violence.
Since then, nothing has changed in Colombia, with 47 union assassinations in 2009 in addition to the 51 from 2010, more than even in 2007 when the FTA was initially negotiated (ironically, some view FTAs as incentives for good behavior). The President shouldn’t support a corporate-first FTA with Colombia, while glossing over the violence he lamented during the election.
That's why the AFL-CIO, the California Labor Federation, the California Democratic Party, and most major unions are calling on their members to stand up and fight to stop the President's free trade expansion plans. Along with FTAs with South Korea and Panama, the Colombia FTA constitute the President's extension of the Bush-era trade agenda which is poised to cost more American jobs, and endanger the lives and livelihoods of our brothers and sisters around the world.
California, with its 53 Members of Congress, is key to stopping these FTAs and protecting worker power both in the U.S. and abroad. Unfortunately, they will easily pass if our representatives don't hear from us, which is why the California Fair Trade Coalition is hosting two organizational calls this Tuesday, May 24, and distributing info and lobbying guides to arm activists to stop the corporate takeover of trade.
Joining the call will be Sacramento Central Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Bill Camp, to discuss his personal experiences with union violence in Colombia. Other speakers include a brief guide to lobbying and organizing on trade issues by the California Fair Trade Coalition.
All three FTAs could be introduced to the House within weeks. If we're going to stop them, now is the time.