Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Violence worsens in Colombia after so-called trade deal

Teamsters said three years ago that a so-called trade deal with Colombia wouldn't end assassinations of trade unionists. Sadly, we were right.
Rallying against the murder of unionists.

Three years ago, proponents of the treaty to empower corporations in Colombia came up with something called a 'Labor Action Plan' (LAP). It was theoretically supposed to end anti-union violence. What it really did was give some lawmakers a fig leaf to let them vote for the treaty and pretend they care for workers' rights.

Treaties like NAFTA, CAFTA and Colombia always come with promises. More jobs, higher standard of living, an end to whatever problems plague the signers. Those promises never pan out.

NAFTA was supposed to reduce undocumented immigration from Mexico; instead, immigration doubled because wages didn't rise and farmers lost their farms. Mexico's drug cartels turned much of the country into a war zone, with 100,000 people killed in drug violence since 2006.

Violence against trade unionists is increasing in Colombia. There were four more unionist murders in 2013 than in 2012. Public Citizen tells us:
In the three years since the LAP was unveiled, 73 Colombian unionists have been murdered ... Colombia’s workers have also endured 31 murder attempts and 953 death threats since the LAP was announced. These crimes have not resulted in any captures, trials, or convictions. The overall impunity rate for unionist murders from 1977 through the present is 87%, while impunity for anti-union death threats stands at 99.9%.  
Colombia’s unions and the National Union School conclude that the decision to sign the LAP “was taken by the Colombian government as a step toward unfreezing the FTA with the United States rather than as an institutional mechanism to promote real protection of the labor and union rights that Colombian workers have lacked for so long.”
Vietnam doesn't actually let union killers get away with murder, but it does prohibit them from forming independent unions. Workers are paid an average minimum wage of 52 cents per hour and the apparel industry relies on slaves and child laborers. Nothing suggests the latest proposal for an international corporate power grab -- the TPP -- would make things any better for the workers of Vietnam.