Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Teamsters Urge Congress to Resist Pressure on Colombia Trade Deal

Change to Win, AFL-CIO Show Solidarity With Colombian Union Leaders During U.S. Visit To Oppose Trade Deal

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa on Wednesday urged Congress to resist White House pressure to pass a trade deal with Colombia.

During a Capitol Hill news conference, seven Colombian union leaders said they oppose the deal because it rewards the government of Alvaro Uribe, which shows little respect for union rights.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, joined the union leaders. The unionists are meeting with members of Congress to make it clear that the labor rights situation in Colombia remains dire, despite the assurances of the Bush and Uribe administrations.

“These trade deals harm workers and protect the multinationals that exploit them,” Hoffa said. “It’s a bogus claim that union leaders will be safer if we enter into a trade agreement with Colombia. After CAFTA was signed, violence against unionists in Guatemala went up—not down.”

At least eight trade unionists were killed in Guatemala after CAFTA took effect on July 1, 2006.

Already this year, 23 trade unionists were killed in Colombia, a rate that surpasses last year’s. Since Alvaro Uribe took office, more trade unionists were killed in Colombia than in the rest of the world combined.

The U.S.-Colombia trade deal was sidelined when the House of Representatives voted to remove it from Fast Track rules. Business lobbyists, the White House and the Colombian government are bringing intense pressure on Congress to approve the deal.

The Bush administration indicated it may try to cut a deal with Congress, perhaps exchanging Trade Adjustment Assistance or an economic stimulus package for the Colombia trade agreement. The Teamsters support both, but will vigorously oppose any attempt to pass this trade pact with Colombia.

The Teamsters are part of the Change to Win federation, which is fighting the U.S.-Colombia trade deal. The AFL-CIO also strongly opposes the deal. Change to Win and the AFL-CIO are hosting the delegation of Colombia union leaders this week.

The visiting union leaders are:

Luís Alfonso Velásquez Rico, National Executive Committee member of the Unitary Workers Center; Alba Lucía Campaz Cuero, President of the Hospital Workers Union; Jorge Enrique Gamboa Caballero, President of the National Petroleum Workers Union; Segundo Ernesto Mora Mateus, General Secretary of the Bank Workers Union; Percy Oyola Paloma, President of the National Union of Telecommunications Workers; Evan Torro Lopez, Executive Committee member of the National Association of Bank Workers; and John Jairo Caicedo Villegas, President of the Colombia Workers Union.

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