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New Report Details Systematic Labor Rights Violations in Colombia

New Report Details Systematic Labor Rights Violations in Colombia

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor released a report in response to the complaint filed by U.S. and Colombian unions detailing systematic labor rights violations in Colombia. The U.S. government acknowledged many of the serious issues raised in the complaint, including inadequate labor inspections and enforcement actions, abusive forms of subcontracting that prevent union organizing and keep the majority of Colombian workers in precarious jobs, and impunity for threats and violence against trade unionists, which creates a climate of fear.

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Despite Labor Action Plan, Colombian Unionists Still Targeted for Death

Photo via Justice for Colombia

In the four years since the United States and Colombia signed the Labor Action Plan—a precursor  to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement—to address entrenched labor rights violations, Colombian workers have suffered more than 1,933 threats and acts of violence, including 105 assassinations of union activists and 1,337 death threats, according to the latest report  issued by Escuela Nacional Sindical (Colombia’s National Union School).

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Seven Dodge Bullets in Six Days as Violence Aimed at Colombian Unionists Continues

Photo via Justice for Colombia

Cali, Colombia, has never been an easy place to be a trade unionist. As the trade agreement between Colombia and the United States turns three years old, union leaders there are still being shot at by death squads who see organized workers as a dangerous, radical element that must be eliminated. Just in the past week, seven unionists were shot at by masked gunmen in Cali. 

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Respecting Labor Rights Must Be Part of Building a Lasting Peace in Colombia

Respecting Labor Rights Must Be Part of Building a Lasting Peace in Colombia

With unions from the Americas and Europe, the AFL-CIO is participating in the 6th Congress of the Central Union of Workers (CUT) Colombia, the country’s largest labor federation, from Sept. 23–26. The congress takes place as Colombia moves forward with a negotiation and peace-building process to end a 50-year conflict that has killed more than 170,000 civilians. The armed conflict has been used by the government for decades to systematically deny basic labor and human rights. More than 3,000 trade unionists were murdered by paramilitary, government and armed guerilla forces for exercising fundamental labor rights since 1987. In spite of strong recent economic growth, Colombia continues to have the third highest social inequality in Latin America after the much poorer countries of Haiti and Honduras. Any sustainable solution to this long-term crisis must include respect for workers’ rights and shared prosperity. 

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Make the Colombia Labor Rights Action Plan Work for Workers

Three years ago today, when the governments of Colombia and the United States signed the Labor Action Plan (LAP), Colombian workers hoped that systemic violence against labor activists and persistent employer abuses would at last come to an end. As Miguel Conde of the union SINTRAINAGRO explains in a new report by the AFL-CIO, palm workers at the Bucarelia plantation initially were hopeful, but the LAP profoundly failed to deliver meaningful change in their lives.

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Colombia's Labor Activists Still Targets of Violence

Colombia's Labor Activists Still Targets of Violence

In July 2011, more than 5,000 Colombia petroleum workers walked off the job at the multinational company Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. to demand better working conditions, better pay and union representation. More than 4,000 joined the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), which presented a collective bargaining proposal to the company. These brave workers faced down the continuing prevalence of systematic violence against labor and other human rights activists and impunity for perpetrators, to exercise their rights.

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Big Colombia Strike Highlights Free Trade Fail

Big Colombia Strike Highlights Free Trade Fail

There is a big strike in Colombia, and you probably don’t know about it. Farmers and others are protesting over a variety of grievances, including the devastating effect of free trade agreements, privatization and inequality-driven poverty. Corporate-owned American media is not covering it. These trade agreements make the really rich really richer while outsourcing jobs to places where people can’t object to the low pay and working conditions. This undercuts wages here. The end result is a race to the bottom.

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Colombia's Flower Unions

Colombia's Flower Unions

In her hilltop shanty, Gloria Isabel Ramirez had rice and beans and potatoes for dinner and nothing else.

But she was not complaining.

Some nights she has nothing for herself and her 12-year-old son, so she pleads with neighbors for food or money to buy food.

And sometimes they go hungry in their two-room home, cobbled out of worn wooden planks that let the winds whip through. A few wobbly planks lead up to the doorway.

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