The murder of four Colombian union leaders in January prompted Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, to urge President Obama to postpone indefinitely the implementation of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, approved by the U.S Congress in October.
The letter states that through January, one union member was killed by Colombian troops, a second was shot to death along with his wife, a third worker was “brutally murdered” and a fourth union member employed by the National Industry of Sodas (Coca-Cola) was “murdered by gunfire.”
Over 2,900 union members have been murdered in Colombia over the last 25 years, a number that makes the South American nation the most dangerous in the world for union members.
Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio both voted in favor of the trade agreement. Florida Democrats in the House of Representatives were split, with Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch against the agreement and Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kathy Castor voting to support the agreements. Florida GOP House members all voted to approve the trade agreement.
The Miami Herald reported in Ocotber that ”the Florida Chamber of Commerce says the agreements will create more than 20,000 new jobs and generate more than $1.5 billion in international trade opportunities.”
According to a February 2011 Enterprise Florida report (.pdf), “the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement is expected to yield significant benefits for Florida’s economy; its ratification by the US Congress is a top priority for Florida.” Enterprise Florida is a private-public partnership that “helps to improve Florida’s business climate, ensuring the state’s global competitiveness.”
The approval of the trade agreement was delayed several years due to the murder of union members, but was sent by the Obama administration to Congress for final approval after a Labor Action Plan was put in place to deal with anti-union violence.
In a letter to members of Congress issued last week, Colombian labor leaders wrote:
We applaud the creation of the April 7, 2011, U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan that intends to take important steps in addressing endemic labor issues in Colombia. However, the Plan continues to face serious challenges in its implementation. Union leaders and labor activists continue to be assassinated, threatened, and intimidated, and the perpetrators enjoy almost complete impunity.
Wednesday’s letter from the AFL-CIO to Obama adds that a Humans Rights Watch report ”concludes that the U.S. State Department is not enforcing the human rights conditions imposed upon U.S. aid to Colombia.”