AFL-CIO Mission


Opposition to

FTAs continues



The campaign waged by the government of Colombia to have the FTA approved by US Congress has led it to pour significant funds into lobbies, targeting in particular House Democrats and US businesses that regularly visit Colombia. The purpose of these visits is to see how the reports sent by the Alvaro Uribe administration to promote FTA approval measure up to the country’s actual state of affairs. These reports maintain that progress has been made towards reducing violence against unionists and effectively applying the ILO conventions adopted by the Colombian government. An AFL-CIO delegation* arrived in Colombia to draw its own conclusions.




The goal of the mission is to meet with and interview national union federations, global unions, national congresspersons, central government officials, business operators and Human Rights NGOs. At the meeting with Colombia’s labor movement, held on Tuesday, February 12 at the headquarters of the Colombian Teachers’ Federation (FECODE), the AFL-CIO mission listened to numerous reports from union spokespersons in the various industries and received updated statistical data proving that the killing of unionists is still going on, that many other unions are still being forced into political exile, that whole unions are being wiped out while Collective Bargaining Agreements are eliminated, that efforts to create new unions are continuously undermined by layoffs of workers and union leaders, and that all of this occurs under the indulgent and complicit eyes of Ministry of Social Protection officers, who through bureaucratic subterfuges repeatedly deny the registration of new unions and, instead, facilitate conditions for the widespread implementation of pseudo associated labor cooperatives, outsourcing, and temporary employment schemes.


At the meeting, the National Agro-Food Union of Colombia (UNAC) and the IUF’s Latin American division, Rel-UITA, announced their political decision to continue their involvement in the region’s international struggle against all FTAs, both those already approved and those promoted despite the opposition of unions and social and popular sectors.


These agreements have had disastrous effects on the labor movement and on collective bargaining, but most of all they have proved devastating in terms of the defense of our natural resources and food sovereignty. Moreover, as in Mexico, the rural sector is being displaced by mega agricultural projects implemented by transnational corporations, through the expansion of green deserts for ethanol production and transgenic agro-food imports from the United States.


The UNAC and Rel-UITA ratified their determination to continue their efforts to form a strategic and political alliance between US labor organizations and their Latin American counterparts, with the aim of preventing the destruction and impoverishment of labor in Latin America and halting its increasingly rapid casualization in the United States.


As we said, FTAs in Latin America exacerbate the process of displacement and annihilation of the rural working class, but that is not the only consequence they have. It won’t be long before, as a result of the development of FTAs, the United States government begins to gradually dismantle the system of agricultural subsidies that ensures profitability for farmers in the north.


In our presentation, we also called on everyone to focus and step up the efforts to organize workers in the informal sector and strengthen the unionization of rural workers and family farmers.


At the end of the union meeting, the AFL-CIO delegation ratified its will to continue its open and frank opposition to the FTA with Colombia, both in the political and labor fronts. It will go on denouncing and questioning the Colombian government for its attempts to embellish the situation in the country and conceal its political intention to continue encouraging the extermination of unions and the implementation of labor reforms that strengthen the proliferation of outsourcing schemes and pseudo associated labor cooperatives. It also declared that US labor and Democrat legislators should demand greater efforts from Colombia’s government and State to eradicate once and for all the violence against all unionists, leaders, members and activists.


The AFL-CIO mission is an encouragement and incentive to challenge the hypocrisy of the government and the business sector, who participate in every instance of dialogue and agreement proposed, but contribute nothing to find solutions. It is a strategy to spruce up their social image with a thin coat of democratic gloss for the benefit of the international bodies that monitor compliance with social and human rights in international commerce.



From Bogotá, Luís Alejandro Pedraza


February 14, 2008




* The AFL-CIO mission is headed by Linda Chávez Thompson, Vice President of the federation. She’s accompanied by Leo Gerard, Larry Cohen, Stan Gacek, Thea Lee, Dan Kovalich, Steve Davison, Fail Cartmail and Ellie Larson.

Photos: Luis Alejandro Pedraza


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