Congress Moves Toward Passing Colombia, Panama & S. Korea Free Trade Agreements

“And I’ll also oppose the Colombia Free Trade Agreement if President Bush insists on sending it to Congress because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements. So you can trust me when I say that whatever trade deals we negotiate when I’m President will be good for American workers, and that they’ll have strong labor and environmental protections that we’ll enforce.” -Barak Obama (To the AFL-CIO, PA April 2, 2008)

This Thursday, March 17, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the first step in introducing it for a floor vote in the House. No matter how many times you’ve called your Representative on the Colombia FTA, it is vital that you do so once again.

While Republicans and Democrats are split over how the Colombia, Panama and South Korea free trade agreements should be passed (as a package or piece meal), Ways and Means Chairman Brady wants them all passed by July 1. Despite Colombia’s horrific human rights record and shameful treatment of union members and labor organizers make the idea of “rewarding” Colombia particularly outrageous. But all three FTAs are bad for workers here at home and bad for workers in Colombia, Panama and Korea. That means we have to act fast!

Over the last 25 years 2,857 labor leaders have been killed in Colombia. According to the Colombian National School Union (supported by the AFL-CIO) in 2010, 51 trade unionists were killed and 7 went missing (29 of which were teachers)! This trend has not changed since Santos took office. Just since the turn of the year, 4 unionists (3 teachers) have been killed already. Moreover, Colombia has the world’s largest internally displaced population, with nearly 12% of the population being displaced. This has disproportionately impacted Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups.

So, What Can We Do!?!

As mentioned in past alerts, it is absolutely vital to make this topic a political disaster for any elected officials willing to touch it.

  1. It is absolutely vital to make Colombia and all free trade agreements a political disaster for any elected officials willing to touch it. Please call or write your Representatives and tell him or her that your vote in the next election could depend on their opposition to the three agreements. (Letter Below)
  2. Print, distribute and send in copies of the downloadable postcard opposing the Colombia FTA.
  3. Submit a written “public comment” to the House Ways and Means Committee. Feel free to include the article linked below as supplemental information.

Dear ____________

I would like to express my opposition to the pending free trade agreements with Panama, South Korea and especially Colombia. Over the last 25 years 2,857 labor leaders have been killed in Colombia. According to the National School Union in 2010, 51 trade unionists have been killed and 7 have gone missing (29 of which were teachers). This trend has not changed since Santos took office. Just since the turn of the year, 4 unionists (3 teachers) have been killed already. Moreover, Colombia has the world’s largest internally displaced population, with nearly 12% of the population being displaced. This has disproportionately impacted Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups.

Even with improved labor and human rights, these free trade agreements would hurt ordinary people in all involved countries. I urge you to respect labor rights and not risk greater unemployment for us at home. My vote in the next election could be determined by your position on this issue.

Sincerely,

______________

Background Information

For more information on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, please refer to Dan Kovalik’s Huffington Post Article.

Colombia Delegation

Slots still available for the AFGJ / National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Colombia, May 27-June 5th! We’ve decided to extend the application for one week, until March 22nd. For information contact: James Jordan at james@AfGJ.org or 202-544-9355 x3.