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Obama Defies Unions, Human Rights Advocates with Colombia "Free Trade" Deal

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Better Believe It Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:34 PM
Original message
Obama Defies Unions, Human Rights Advocates with Colombia "Free Trade" Deal
Obama Defies Unions, Human Rights Advocates with Colombia Deal
by Kevin Bogardus and Vicki Needham
April 7, 2011

President Obama broke with union supporters Wednesday over a controversial trade agreement with Colombia that is vociferously opposed by organized labor.

The administration announced it would move forward with the deal after agreeing to an action plan with Colombia in which that country promises to make changes to its labor laws and improve its record of combating violence against union organizers.

The Colombia agreement is a high priority for Republicans, who had threatened to hold up a trade deal with South Korea without a commitment on Colombia from the administration. In his State of the Union address last year, Obama vowed to double exports within five years, and the deals are key to that agenda.

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, praised the White House for moving forward on Colombia.

Read the full article at:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/04/07-1


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Assassination Stress Tests: White House Moves NAFTA-style Colombia Trade Deal
By: Michael Whitney
April 6, 2011

The Obama Administration announced today it intends to move to Congress a NAFTA-style trade deal with Colombia (better known as Colombian Free Trade). The trade end of the deal remains largely unchanged from the language originally negotiated by George W. Bush. The hold up for the last five years has been the little issue of union members being assassinated in Colombia. Specifically, 2,850 trade unionists have been assassinated in Colombia in the last 25 years, including 52 murdered in 2009.

Good news! The Obama Administration and Colombia have agreed to an Action Plan to reduce those assassinations in the next 3 months before Congress ratifies the NAFTA-style trade deal. The Action Plan (their caps) is three pages of bullet points that set checkpoints for Colombia to reduce the murders of union members.

As Marcy Wheeler noted, those checkpoints are essentially assassination stress tests a meaningless series of goals without real enforcement, and without a requirement that the number of murders is actually, you know, reduced.

Read the full article at:

http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2011/04/06/assassinati... /


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PRESS RELEASE

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the Proposed Colombia Trade Agreement
April 06, 2011

We are deeply disappointed that the Obama Administration has signaled that it will move forward to submit the proposed U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement to Congress for a vote in the near future. In our view, the situation in Colombia remains unacceptably violent for trade unionists, as well as for human rights defenders and other vulnerable populations. In addition, Colombian workers face enormous and indefensible legal and practical hurdles in exercising their rights to organize unions and bargain collectively.

We appreciate the efforts of the Obama Administration to negotiate a separate Action Plan with the Colombian government to address some of the concerns we have raised over many years with respect to human and labor rights for workers, murders of trade unionists, and impunity for the perpetrators of violence. We understand that the proposed Action Plan lays out some important benchmarks in terms of increasing the level of protection for workers, addressing some flaws in the labor code, and improving enforcement of labor laws.

However, the Action Plan does not go nearly far enough in laying out concrete benchmarks for progress in the areas of violence and impunity, nor does it address many of the ways in which Colombian labor law falls short of international standards. There is no guarantee that the terms of it will in fact lead to a reduction in violence, and no backup plan to delay implementation if the violence and impunity continue. Furthermore, the Action Plan is a stand-alone agreement, not connected to the benefits conferred in the trade agreement. Once the trade agreement is ratified by Congress and implemented, the U.S. government will have no leverage whatsoever to enforce its terms in the event that the terms are not implemented as agreed.

The Colombian government has failed in enforcing the rule of law and protecting the safety of its citizens as they exercise their internationally recognized human rights to form unions and bargain collectively. These problems are deeply ingrained and longstanding, and they cannot be solved by commitments on a piece of paper. Concrete progress on the ground with respect to violence, impunity, and labor law reform needs to be demonstrated over a sustained period of time.

Colombia remains the most deadly nation in the world in which to be a trade unionist. In the past 25 years, more than 2,850 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia. Last year alone, 51 trade unionists were murdered, an increase over 2009. Six trade unionists have been murdered so far this year, including two in the past week. The conviction rate for union murders and other violence is in the single digits, and even where prosecutions have occurred, many perpetrators have been charged in absentia and are still on the loose. Union density in Colombia is below 5 percent, and even fewer workers can exercise their right to bargain collectively. We have no doubt that if 51 CEOs had been murdered in Colombia last year, this deal would be on a very slow track indeed.

We are consulting closely with our union counterparts in Colombia and will continue to consult with the Obama administration about the terms of the Action Plan and its implementation. But, on the basis of the information provided to us at this time, we remain strongly opposed to the Colombia trade agreement.

Contact: Amaya Tune (202) 637-5018

http://www.aflcio.org/mediacenter/prsptm/pr04062011.cfm

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Brickbat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:41 PM
Response to Original message
1. Shameful. That ACTION PLAN would make me laugh, if it didn't make me so goddamn angry.
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ProgressiveProfessor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:43 PM
Response to Original message
2. "Defies"...poor word choice from Common Dreams
but that is often par for the course these days
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Better Believe It Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:57 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Would ignore be a better word? I suppose we can nit pick and ignore the substance of the articles
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 01:02 PM by Better Believe It
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OHdem10 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:45 PM
Response to Original message
3. Free Trade Policy has done more to destroy our Mfg Base and
the loss of jobs paying living wage jobs.

Wall Street Rules and always get what they wish.
The Republicans Conservative Economic Fundamentalism
which pushes Free Trade Rules prevails.

Can we find out the exact items we will be selling
in Colombia. Or is the main reason to give the
Corporations another spot for cheap labor.
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FiveGoodMen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 01:59 PM
Response to Original message
5. Those first six words are the hallmark of his presidency
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LiberalAndProud Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:05 PM
Response to Original message
6. Was this what he meant when he said he would renegotiate NAFTA.
Disappointed doesn't quite describe my sentiments. This is more of the same same same same policy that has undermined our economy for years now.
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upi402 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:08 PM
Response to Original message
7. Democrats support unions during elections only
then kick unions in the brains and stabs them in the back.

Many idiots in unions barely vote Democratic anyway, others are flat out conservative. Almost like there's no real choice for working people so WTF?
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Edweird Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:11 PM
Response to Original message
8. Showing his 'support' for unions and US workers. With friends like these who needs enemies?
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:21 PM
Response to Original message
9. Did the president say anything about the mass graves or the crematoria?
Is there an "action plan" for those?

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Dappleganger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:22 PM
Response to Original message
10. More pragmatist bullshit.
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