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Congressman Mark Pocan

Representing the 2nd District of Wisconsin

Members of Congress Stand with Colombia Trade Unions and Call on Administration to Fully Enforce Colombia Free Trade Agreement

May 17, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC — Members of Congress today stood with Colombia’s trade unions and called on the Administration to fully enforce the Colombia Free Trade Agreement and protect unionists abroad. During the press conference, Members of Congress and the unionists highlighted how the Colombia Free Trade Agreement has proved to be both inadequate and unenforceable.

Tuesday’s press conference comes just a day after the AFL-CIO filed an official complaint under the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Since the FTA went into force, the complaint reports that 1,466 workers have suffered threats or acts of violence, including 99 assassinations, 6 kidnappings, and 955 death threats. The complaint asserts that impunity for these acts is 87 percent and that the cases have not resulted in a single conviction.

“The Colombian Free Trade Agreement and Labor Action Plan were supposed to bring the most modern labor standards into place, but four years later we are still seeing murders, disappearances, and threats,” said Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02). “Nothing has substantively changed in the country and it’s absolutely unconscionable. This is the exact reason why we are so skeptical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If the language is nearly identical to the Colombian agreement, why should we feel that there will be any difference in labor rights in a trade deal encompassing 40 percent of the world’s economy.”

“Since the U.S. entered into the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, my colleagues and I have called upon the Administration to fully enforce the agreement’s labor provisions. However, worker abuse continues to run rampant, ongoing threats and acts of violence are not investigated or prosecuted, and workers have lost their lives,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03). “These are violations of life, liberty, and safety – they are unconscionable. Union workers, activists, and their families should not live in fear. That is why we must reject the nearly identical labor provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

“My colleagues and I have pressed the Colombian government to close the loophole in the Labor Action Plan that allows third-party contractors to deny basic rights and dignities,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09). “Since the Colombia Free Trade Agreement went into force, worker and unionist violence – instead of ending as promised – has continued. This has even included assassinations and kidnapping of labor organizers. I am proud to stand with Colombian workers in their complaint under the Colombia Free Trade Agreement and against the Trans Pacific Partnership that contains the same provisions that fail to protect workers.  It is time for third-party intermediation to end and to ensure that our trade agreements truly protect workers all over the world.”

“Colombia’s workers – especially Afro-Colombians and members of the indigenous communities – have long faced violence, persecution and a lack of opportunity, which in turn further perpetuates a cycle of poverty in Colombia,” said Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04). “As the moral and economic leader of the world, the U.S. must espouse policies that break this cycle. We must insist on protection for Colombian labor activists facing political persecution and death simply for forming a union or fighting for basic civil and human rights. We cannot turn a blind eye to these abuses.”

“Years after the Labor Action Plan went into place, Columbians are still being threatened, assaulted, and killed. Violence against trade unionists in Colombia have not been properly investigated or prosecuted, and only one person has been convicted for murdering a trade unionist. The working men and women in Colombia deserve better,” said Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-05). “Our government said the agreement with Colombia contained strong labor protections. They were wrong. We must protect workers in Colombia, and we must make sure that any trade agreement we make in the future, ensures workers’ protections. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.”