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National Labor News: National AFL-CIO Remains Opposed to Colombia Trade Deal, Second Recall Against State Republicans Filed In Wisconsin & Governor Kasich’s Ohio Budget Bill Would Kill 51,052 Jobs

Published Friday, April 8, 2011 1:00 am
by National AFL-CIO News & WNYLaborToday Staff

National AFL-CIO Remains Opposed to Colombia Trade Deal


National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has issued the following statement on the Obama Administration’s intention to send a U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement to Congress for a vote:

We’re deeply disappointed the Obama Administration has signaled that it will move forward to submit the proposed U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement to Congress for a vote in the near future.  In our view, the situation in Colombia remains unacceptably violent for Trade Unionists, as well as for Human Rights Defenders and other vulnerable populations.  In addition, Colombian Workers face enormous and indefensible legal and practical hurdles in exercising their rights to organize Unions and bargain collectively.  We appreciate the efforts of the Obama Administration to negotiate a separate Action Plan with the Colombian Government to address some of the concerns we have raised over many years with respect to Human and Labor Rights for Workers, murders of Trade Unionists, and impunity for the perpetrators of violence.  We understand that the proposed Action Plan lays out some important benchmarks in terms of increasing the level of protection for Workers, addressing some flaws in the Labor Code and improving enforcement of Labor Laws.  However, the Action Plan does not go nearly far enough in laying out concrete benchmarks for progress in the areas of violence and impunity, nor does it address many of the ways in which Colombian Labor Law falls short of international standards. There’s no guarantee that the terms of it will in fact lead to a reduction in violence and no backup plan to delay implementation if the violence and impunity continue.  Furthermore, the Action Plan is a stand-alone agreement, not connected to the benefits conferred in the trade agreement.  Once the trade agreement is ratified by Congress and implemented, the U.S. government will have no leverage whatsoever to enforce its terms in the event that the terms are not implemented as agreed.  The Colombian Government has failed in enforcing the rule of law and protecting the safety of its citizens as they exercise their internationally recognized Human Rights to form Unions and bargain collectively.  These problems are deeply ingrained and longstanding and they cannot be solved by commitments on a piece of paper.  Concrete progress on the ground with respect to violence, impunity and Labor Law Reform needs to be demonstrated over a sustained period of time.  Colombia remains the most deadly nation in the world in which to be a Trade Unionist.  In the past 25 years, more than 2,850 Trade Unionists have been murdered in Colombia.  Last year alone, 51 Trade Unionists were murdered, an increase over 2009.  Six Trade Unionists have been murdered so far this year, including two in the past week.  The conviction rate for Union murders and other violence is in the single digits and even where prosecutions have occurred, many perpetrators have been charged in absentia and are still on the loose.  Union density in Colombia is below five percent and even fewer workers can exercise their right to bargain collectively.  We have no doubt that if 51 CEOs had been murdered in Colombia last year, this deal would be on a very slow track indeed.  We are consulting closely with our Union counterparts in Colombia and will continue to consult with the Obama Administration about the terms of the Action Plan and its implementation.  But, on the basis of the information provided to us at this time, we remain strongly opposed to the Colombia trade agreement.


Second Recall Against State Republicans Filed In Wisconsin

By Tula Connell/National AFL-CIO News Now Blog


The effort to recall Wisconsin Republican State Senators who voted to kill Collective Bargaining for Public Employees is moving along at a rapid clip.  Recall supporters now have sufficient signatures to file a recall against Republican Randy Hopper, who represents the Fond du Lac Region.  This second filing comes just days after more than 15,588 signatures were filed to recall State Senator Dan Kapanke, who represents the La Crosse area.   Two days ago, Wisconsin voters sent another strong message that Governor Scott Walker and his Republican legislative cronies have gone too far.  They voted for JoAnne Kloppenburg for State Supreme Court over Walker favorite, David Prosser, who had held a roughly 30 percentage-point lead until Walker’s descent into extremism.  Not surprisingly, an effort to recall Democrat State Senators has resulted in no action.  Poll after poll shows Walker would be trounced if he was up for election now and along with the election and the speed with which voters are signing on to recall Republican State Senators, it’s clear that voters reject these attacks on Working Families and on the Collective Bargaining Process that enables people to attain good Middle-Class Jobs.  ( Editor’s Note: As of Thursday evening, the Kloppenburg victory is now is question after a Republican Official with a reportedly checkered past acknowledged that 7,000 votes for Kloppenburg’s opponent have now been uncovered.  Stay tuned for further updates on Your Regional, On-Line Labor Newspaper in the coming days.)


Kasich’s Ohio Budget Bill Would Kill 51,052 Jobs

By Tula Connell/National AFL-CIO News Now Blog


Yet another Republican governor is killing jobs.  This time, it’s John Kasich in Ohio.  A new study shows his proposed two-year budget could mean a direct loss of 51,052 jobs in that state.  The study by Innovation Ohio shows that such job losses would be more than double the 22,000 jobs created since Kasich took office.  This blow to Ohio’s economy is in addition to the Kasich-backed bill passed by the Ohio Legislature gutting Collective Bargaining Rights for Public Employees, a drastic move that limits workers’ ability to attain or maintain Middle-Class Jobs.  Innovation Ohio Communications Director Dale Butland puts it this way: “School districts and local governments will, of course, do everything possible to avoid laying people off.  But they’ve already made the easy cuts and pared their budgets dramatically.”  So when the Governor proposes to cut school funding by $3 billion and local government funding by 50%, firing workers or raising local taxes are the only realistic choices they have left.  But attacking Workers - whether through a job-killing budget or the unfair Senate Bill 5 - will not fix Ohio. I t will only destroy the Middle Class.  And that’s not what Governor Kasich was elected to do.  In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker already has racked up quite a record as a job killer, after only a couple months in office.  In Florida, where Governor Rick Scott turned away federal high-speed rail project, costing the state much-needed jobs, his hand-picked department heads are being paid special salaries - unabashed cronyism costing that state’s taxpayers a bundle.


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