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The UAW and its one million active and retired members have followed closely the negotiation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia and the subsequent development of the Action Plan to deal with continued violence against labor union members and leaders.
The UAW believes that the negotiation of bilateral and multilateral international trade agreements presents real opportunities to improve the labor and human rights of workers around the world. We commend the Obama administration's strong efforts to strengthen labor and human rights protections in Colombia through the Action Plan and through continuing discussions with Colombia, but we cannot support congressional action on the FTA until:
(1) There is significant progress on the paramount moral issues surrounding the continued violence against unionists.
(2) There is concrete evidence that the perpetrators of these crimes are being brought to justice.
(3) There is an enforcement process for the Action Plan incorporated in either the FTA itself or congressional implementation of the legislation.
Earlier this month, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), with which the UAW is affiliated, released its new Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights, confirming that Colombia remains the most dangerous place on earth for unionists: Last year, 49 people were murdered for their trade union activities - more than the rest of the world combined; 75 additional individuals received credible death threats; at least 2,500 unionists were arrested and thousands more fired from their jobs solely due to union membership.
The Action Plan is not enforceable under the FTA, and the passage of the U.S.-Colombia FTA would seriously weaken the pressure on the Colombian government to fulfill its human rights obligations. The Colombian government has been unambiguously complicit in the abuse of labor and human rights, and the signing of the FTA would undermine workers' rights and the basic principles of freedom and justice.
The UAW will be opposed to the Colombia FTA as long as our brothers and sisters in Colombia continue to be brutally murdered and violently intimidated. We support and will work closely with other American and Colombian unions in the struggle to improve conditions on the ground in Colombia before rewarding the Colombian government and corporations with trade benefits.