Colombia: Organized Labor Will Stop At Nothing

By May 14, 2008Trade

Organized labor in the form of UNITE HERE is sponsoring a rally today featuring trade unionists from Colombia, standing in solidarity with the U.S. labor unions in opposing the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. From the news release:

WASHINGTON, May 13 /PRNewswire/ — Colombian union leaders and workers will join Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, Communication Workers of America president Larry Cohen, and UNITE HERE general president Bruce Raynor for a news conference on Wednesday, May 14, at 11:00 a.m. ET, to highlight their opposition to the pending Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for union members. More than 2,500 workers have been murdered by Colombian death squads for trying to form unions since the 1980s, and there have been more than 400 murders since President Uribe took office five years ago. Yet the Colombian government has done nothing to effectively stop death squads from murdering workers for trying to form unions.

This is not true. This is a conscious misstatement of fact. This is a lie.

From “Back from the Brink: Evaluating Progress in Colombia, 1999-2007,” the section on violence against trade unionists.

[A] new unit under the direction of the attorney general, staffed by 13 prosecutors and 75 investigators, is now dedicated to prosecuting homicides of labor union members, focusing on 187 “priority cases” agreed to in consultation with the International Labor Office and the trade unions themselves. This unit is projected to file formal charges in 27 cases during the course of 2007 with a projected 18 convictions rendered. Colombia’s change to an accusatorial system of criminal justice procedure will further speed up prosecutions.

The Protection Program of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice provided special security protection to some 1,500 trade unionists in 2006 at a cost of about $11 million. None of the persons enrolled in this program was killed.

This summary comes from the respected and independent Center for Strategic and International Studies, which conducted a rigorous study of Colombia’s progress and continued failings. You can download the full report here.

The graph from the study also refutes UNITE HERE’s lie.

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