The United States’ largest national trade union federation has issued a letter to members of Congress urging them to vote down the upcoming free trade agreement with Colomiba, South Korea, and Panama.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) union noted the high level of violence against trade unionists in Colombia and the failure of the government to provide protection for victims or prosecute their persecutors. The letter asserted that Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for union members, and that Colombian workers have no real right to organize. The letter claimed that only 4% of Colombian workers belong to a union and only 1% are protected by a collective bargaining agreement.
The letter further argued that the Labor Action Plan negotiated by the Obama administration to protect Colombian workers was inadequate and that more time was needed to see if the situation in Colombia could improve.
Last June, the International Confederation of Trade Unionists reported that 55% of all unionist murders worldwide occured in Colombia, with 49 union members killed in 2010. The confederation reported in 2010 that the year before Colombia again accounted for nearly half of the world’s unionist murders.
Regarding South Korea, the AFL-CIO argued that the FTA would cost the US jobs, that South Korea has been shipping Chinese goods to America after rebranding them as Korean, and that Korea does not do enough to prevent North Korean sweat-shop goods from entering its market. The union argued against free trade with Panama, accusing Panama of weak labor rights and acting as a tax haven.