Fifteen union leaders have been murdered since the Labor Action Plan between the United States and Colombia went into effect in April 2011, said the largest U.S-based trade union federation in a letter to President Barack Obama.
The president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) urged Obama to not send the Colombia-U.S. free trade agreement to Congress for approval until the Colombian government addresses human rights violations against unionists in their country.
The Labor Action Plan is a requisite for the approval of the FTA, which forces the Colombian government to address violence against unionists. The plan has been a source of controversy as critics argue that it does not require results and actual improvement.
“Despite the Labor Action Plan that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos agreed to in April, violent suppression of workers, as well as land rights, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian activists continues unabated,” said AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka in the letter to Obama.
“Twenty-two union leaders have been killed so far this year in Colombia, including 15 since the Labor Action Plan went into effect. While the new government may have good intentions, unfortunately, on the ground, Colombian working families are neither safer nor more able to exercise basic rights. Colombia continues to be the most dangerous place in the world to be a union member,” Trumka explained.
In addition to the 22 union leaders murdered, all of which Trumka argues have gone unsolved, the AFL-CIO also pointed out that six Catholic priests have been murdered in Colombia in 2011.
The union president asserted that passing the FTA will “undercut our leverage to encourage Colombia to follow up its promises and intentions with effective actions.”
Both President Santos and President Obama have expressed confidence that the U.S.-Colombia FTA will pass by the end of 2011.