Campaign for Labor Rights: Call on the AFL-CIO to Help Stop the Korean Free Trade Agreement

The Campaign for Labor Rights (CLR), a project of the Alliance for Global Justice, is encouraging supporters of fair trade to contact the AFL-CIO’s President Richard Trumka and ask him to take decisive action to defeat KORUS, the South Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). The agreement is dangerously close to becoming a reality and would pave the way for passage of FTAs with Colombia and Panama. AFL-CIO leadership has been vital in past movements to defeat FTAs, but right now labor is sending mixed messages. UAW president Bob King endorsed KORUS, much to the chagrin of other labor leaders. CLR applauds Pres. Trumka and other union leaders for their statements criticizing the agreement, but none of these include calls to action. Likewise, CLR could find no current information or mobilizations on the AFL-CIO’s main website. Certainly this is a time for the AFL-CIO to show leadership and coalition-building, not timidity and caution. Pres. Trumka needs to hear from all workers, as well as solidarity, environmental and other progressive activists.

Please contact Pres. Trumka by calling 202-637-5000 or sending an email Comments may also be left on the AFL-CIO website and closing the introduction page with an unemployment counter.

Below is a sample letter or text for your phone calls, emails and letters.

Dear Pres. Trumka,

I urge the AFL-CIO to step up to the plate and provide leadership in the movement to defeat the anti-worker KORUS Free Trade Agreement with South Korea. KORUS–and pending FTAs with Colombia and Panama–are hugely unpopular among union rank-and-file and progressive voters. Pres. Obama and Congress people who want to pass KORUS are risking their political futures with this bad agreement. True friends will tell them so.

Your recent statement criticizing KORUS included no call to action and a visit to the AFL-CIO website shows no current efforts to mobilize for the FTA’s defeat. KORUS would be the largest FTA since NAFTA, and it would be just as bad for workers, farmers and the environment. President Trumka, we need you and we need the AFL-CIO. There is no organization better equipped to put together the kind of coalition required for this struggle. Step forward, and let’s change history together!


Your Name

The Obama Administration will be seeking the passage of KORUS, the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, before the new Congress that takes office in January. KORUS would be a precursor to efforts to pass FTAs with Colombia and Panama. This is not just speculation. In February, 2009, US Trade Ambassador Ronald Kirk told Democratic lawmakers the Obama Administration would try to pass the FTA with Panama, followed by KORUS and, then, the US-Colombia FTA. However, that effort was defeated by popular pressure, making it politically risky for supporters to move forward.

Now the administration has changed the order, but the thrust is the same: pass all three FTAs, this time starting with South Korea. Since FTAs are unpopular with both the Right and Left grassroots, the push will be to get the agreement through Congress before the Spring, before attention shifts to the Presidential elections and political risks are higher.

Read the following article for a very telling report on the contentious Dec. 6th meeting of the AFL-CIO’s legislative meeting: Clearly, this the time for us to support those unionists calling for action against the FTA.

Since that meeting, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has sent out a post criticizing KORUS. This is a positive development, but there is no call for action and the statement mostly focuses on various problems within the agreement. This process has moved too far for mere tinkering or “fixing”. At present, momentum to pass KORUS is greater than the momentum to defeat it. We need an all-out campaign to defeat KORUS and we need the AFL-CIO to be on board.

Please read more about KORUS on our webpage.