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Statement by CWA on the Proposed Colombia Free Trade Agreement

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Colombia Trade Agreement Needs Further Discussion and Revision

  • In Colombia, just 100,000 workers out of 20 million have bargaining rights. 85% of working Colombians are misclassified as contractors and "cooperativos." These millions of workers don't have bargaining rights and also are denied health care benefits and retirement security because they don't have "employee status."
  • The proposed free trade agreement calls for both the United States and Colombia to adopt the five fundamental rights outlined by the International Labor Organization, which include the right to form and join a union and the right to collective bargaining. The U.S. Congress has not adopted these conventions and is unlikely to do so now. And even if the Colombian government approved these fundamental rights, the proposed agreement has no real enforcement provisions.
  • Public workers in Colombia have no bargaining rights. As in the U.S, today, where the bargaining rights of public sector workers have come under attack in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey and other states, public workers in Colombia are being silenced. This policy is wrong, for Colombia and for the U.S.

CWA will continue its work with telephone workers, public workers, journalists and others who are fighting for employee status and a voice in their workplaces.

CWA also supports the work of a key group of House members, led by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), which outlined measures the Colombian government must take to reduce violence against trade unionists and improve human rights conditions in Colombia before the free trade agreement can be presented to Congress.

"One of the most important ways we can safeguard the ability of American families to make a living and keep their jobs is by guaranteeing they are not in competition with workers in other countries whose wages are kept low not simply because their countries are poor, but because they lack the essential democratic rights that American workers have to improve their standards of living — the right to speak out, to protest, to organize unions, to bargain collectively and directly with their employers, and to freely support political efforts to improve their economic condition. Colombia, sadly, stands out as a country where wages are kept low and workers are repressed through widespread violence against employees trying to better their lot," they wrote to the Obama administration.