Monday, April 14, 2014

A plea for help for Colombian port truck drivers

Teamsters supporting striking port drivers in LA
Exploited Colombian port drivers are fighting for justice, as are port drivers in the United States.

Brother John Walsh, Portland regional vice president for the GCC/IBT 767M, works for justice in Latin American and the Caribbean. He is on the board of directors of Witness for Peace, a grassroots nonprofits that tries to change  U.S. policies and corporate practices that contribute to poverty and oppression.

We received a message from Brother Walsh recently, which we'd like to share:
Buenaventura, Colombia’s biggest port, reveals in stark terms what’s wrong with free trade. The people of the city are afflicted by poverty and violence, while thriving commerce puts big money in the hands of an economic and political oligarchy.  But the largely Afro-Colombian population is fighting back.  Having already carried out several protests, they plan a civic strike in May. Workers, especially the portworkers’ union, are actively engaged in building a movement for economic and social justice. 
The port truck drivers are as far as I know unorganized and exploited.  Virtually all of the trade passing through Buenaventura travels by truck over the one road between the interior of Colombia and the city, creating a great deal of potential leverage. 
I’m working with Witness for Peace, where I’m a volunteer member of the national board, to pull together on short notice a delegation to accompany the May civic strike in Buenaventura. 
We plan to meet with sugar cane cutters and injured GM workers as well.  I’m wondering if Teamsters connected with organizing port truck drivers, or focused on stopping the TPP, would be interested - though Colombia is not presently one of the TPP countries, it could become one, and in any case the failures of the US-Colombia Labor Action Plan are a cautionary tale for future trade agreements.
Specific information about the delegation is here.