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Resolutions & Amendments

38th International Convention - San Francisco, CA (2008)

In Support Of Protecting Trade Unionists And Opposing The Free Trade Agreement Between The United States And Colombia

Resolution No. 52
38th International Convention
Moscone West
July 28 - August 1, 2008
San Francisco, CA

AFSCME, integrated by many workers of our great city, believes that the Free Trade Agreement between US-Colombia must increase the living standards of workers in America and Colombia and the union exercise  must be a democratic right for workers in both countries; and

The North American Free Trade Agreement-NAFTA primarily benefits multinational corporations and the world’s elite at the expense of democratic principles and economic justice for working families, family farmers, and domestic producers around the globe, and the environment and public health; and

Important discussions are currently taking place in the U.S Congress to bring up Free Trade Agreements with Colombia and those agreements open the door for subsequent harmful trade policies, that resemble NAFTA/CAFTA – trade deals that have led to the loss of millions of good jobs at home, a surge in undocumented immigration, a soaring trade deficit, declining real wages, and a deterioration of labor standards; and

The Colombian government maintains labor policies against workers in the public sector, and the government refuses to recognize the right to collective negotiation of more than half a million public employees in clear violation of the Colombian Constitution, Colombian labor laws and International Labor Organization agreements; and

The union members of S.I.N.T.R.A.E.M.C.A.L.I. challenged President Uribe’s plan to privatize the public services of the city of Cali. In the course of this anti-privatization struggle, unionists have been assassinated, while others have been abducted, exiled, arrested and imprisoned. Those arrested and imprisoned were accused by the state of “terrorism,” only for those charges to be later dropped for lack of evidence. It is stigmatization of unionists; and   

Colombia is currently the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists according to the Escuela Nacional Sindical (ENS); a highly regarded labor institute based in Medellin, Colombia; 2,574 union officers and rank-and-file members have been brutally and systematically murdered since 1991. Most of these trade unionists were murdered because they were exercising their basic labor rights, such as bargaining collectively or organizing a strike. From 2002, 475 trade unionists were killed. Government officials have maliciously likened labor leaders and other human rights activists to guerrilla groups, thereby facilitating attacks on these civil society groups by paramilitaries that are convicted at a rate of 2 percent with an impunity rate of 98 percent; and

The government acts in reducing the rights and benefits of workers to the point that the gains of the last century are going to be reduced to ashes. In this way, the new labor laws and the assassinations of union workers make privatization easier and create a paradise for national and foreign corporations; and

Like the three National Unions in Colombia stated (CUT, CGT, and CTC), and also the confederation of pensioners (CPC): since the 90’s Colombia has imported seven million tons of food from the U.S. when before the 90’s food imports were at 700,000 tons. The FTA would increase drug availability in New York City and U.S. streets, and it would damage Colombia’s agriculture again, destroying the country’s food self-sufficiency. Increased importation of U.S. crops to Colombia would force small and medium farmers, peasants and rural workers into the cultivation of illicit crops. Despite intimidations, all four of these major confederations are unanimous in their opposition to the Colombia Free Trade Agreement; and

The U.S. already supports this government with military and financial aid via the costly Plan Colombia, which has failed completely in its publicly stated goal of reducing coca and opium poppy production by 50 percent. The reduction of coca and opium poppy plantations is zero since 2000. In the name of fighting the guerrillas, severe violations of human rights and attacks against the civilian population have taken place. Some of these operations, which in numerous cases appear closely connected with paramilitary depredations, have forced peasants off their land (more than 3.5 million displaced); and

Undoubtedly in regards to Colombia, no labor chapter in the Free Trade Agreement, no matter how well crafted, will be sufficient to reduce, much less end, the incidence of the most extreme violations of the right to free association and collective bargaining. Until the Colombian government demonstrates the political will necessary to combat the problem of violence and impunity, we have no confidence that violence and impunity will end in the near future; and

Our skepticism appears to be confirmed by the recent “para-politics” scandal, in which numerous legislators (46 congresspersons elected in 2006), the former director  of the Security Administrative Department-DAS (the Colombian FBI) and senior government officials (125 high political leaders), many with close ties to President Alvaro Uribe, have been linked to paramilitary death squads. These organizations have been designated as a “foreign terrorist organization” by the U.S. State Department.

That AFSCME support our Colombian brothers and sisters by actively lobbying our Congressional representative to oppose any Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, and also to promote fair immigration reform and stop raids and deportations.  Toward this goal we will do the following:

  1. Urge AFSCME affiliates to support lobbying efforts and campaigns  in collaboration with Colombian trade unions and Colombian organizations to stop this NAFTA
  2. Participate in local and nationwide campaigns demanding that the Colombian government provide protection for trade union members and their leadership from threats and deadly attacks;
  3. Develop a solidarity campaign and establish ties with the Colombian anti-FTA labor movement, so as to provide support and political pressure to defend their human and labor rights.
  4. Demand that our congressional delegation Vote NO on the NAFTA with Colombia,
  5. AFSCME believes that it is crucial for the Colombian government to:


SUBMITTED BY: Edward Rodriguez, President and Delegate
AFSCME Local 1549, Council 37
Santos Crespo, Executive Vice President and Delegate
AFSCME Local 372, Council 37
Isabel Figueroa, Vice President and Delegate
AFSCME Local 420, Council 37
New York

Michael D. Murphy, President and Delegate
Richard C. Badger, Executive Director and Delegate
AFSCME Council 40