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UAW, USW Oppose Colombia Trade Pact

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Two of the nation's largest labor unions came out against a proposed trade pact with Colombia last week, citing violence in the South American nation committed against labor organizers.

The United Auto Workers Union and the United Steelworkers Union both announced their opposition to the trade pact Thursday as it appears that the deal is moving closer and closer to passage.

"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," the Detroit-based union said in a statement.

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"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."

Over the past 20 years, 2,754 unionists have been murdered in Colombia. More often than not, no convictions are ever obtained. In the rare instance where prosecutors are able to obtain a conviction - which is roughly 5 percent of the time - it is often in absentia, meaning the government does not have a suspect in custody. That is the case in 40 percent of the country's convictions for the murder of a unionist.

"The Colombian government continues to fail miserably at effectively prosecuting those responsible for anti-union violence," USW President Leo Gerard said in a press release.

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The deal "puts in jeopardy America's moral leadership by sacrificing the lives and livelihoods, the worker and human rights of the Colombian people at the altar of free trade," he added.

The USW didn't stop there, however. The union came out strongly against proposed trade agreements with South Korea and Panama as well. The UAW has put its stamp of approval on the Korea deal despite the fact that the U.S. auto industry is likely to be impacted negatively by it.

"International trade and the consequences of accelerated globalization are matters of long-standing and deep concern to the USW, as an overwhelming portion of our members work in import-sensitive manufacturing sectors and all too often have lost their jobs due to bad trade deals and unfair and predatory trade practices," Gerard said.

In the past decade, free trade agreements have resulted in the loss of about six million manufacturing jobs and the closure of over 55,000 factories. Those deals, just like the ones currently proposed, were touted as job creating deals.

"Promises made by administrations past and present touting the benefits of free trade have simply not materialized for America's manufacturing workers," Gerard said.

"Trade deals force working Americans to assume all the risk and encourage big multinationals to reap all the rewards."

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Dustin Ensinger is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and political science.

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