U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: No Guarantees for an End to Violence Against Union Leaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Published 4:11 PM Eastern - Friday, April 8, 2011

Tyler Prell, (202) 730-7278

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As the Obama Administration signaled its intent to send the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to Congress for ratification, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

"SEIU cannot support the U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement negotiated by President George W. Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in 2007.

"This agreement is another example of failed trade policies that have resulted in the loss of millions of U.S. jobs. The Economic Policy Institute has estimated that this agreement will result in the loss of 55,000 jobs in the U.S. - the last thing our economy needs.

"In addition, our brothers and sisters in the Colombian labor movement, in the Afro-Colombian community and human rights advocates face a climate rife with crime and violence. In Colombia, more trade unionists are murdered than anywhere else in the world and the perpetrators are very rarely brought to justice. Since 2007, nearly 200 trade unionists have been murdered, including two in the past week.

"While we commend the Administration's efforts to address some of our concerns by negotiating a separate action plan on labor rights, this agreement is not sufficient to ensure that these atrocities will cease and that the Colombian government will protect workers who wish to form a union.

"On these grounds, SEIU flatly opposes the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Agreement."

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With 2.2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers--not just corporations and CEOs--benefit from today's global economy. www.seiu.org

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