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Archive for the ‘International’ Category

By: Shelly Ruzicka

As workers and unionists across the Midwest and across the country continue their fight to maintain collective bargaining rights, unionists in Columbia are fighting for their lives.   Last year alone, 51  unionists were killed in Columbia.  That’s more than the rest of the world combined.

Our friends at the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) and the 8th Day Center for Justice are calling all allies to call on President Obama to oppose the Columbia Free Trade Agreement with Colombia as long as attacks on unionists continue.

Witness for Peace has a factsheet on the Columbia FTA.   Some information unknown to many about the agreement include the following:

  • Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists.
  • The FTA would push Colombia to lower minimum wage, and remove or reduce guarantees for overtime pay, collective bargaining and worker’s compensation.

The two Chicago groups, along with several other community and religious organizations across the country are calling on concerned groups and individuals to call President Obama asking him to keep his campaign promise to oppose the Colombia FTA.  More information on the negative impact of the FTA on people in Columbia can be read in this Baltimore Sun article.

Want to take action? 8th Day and CRLN are asking people to call the White House opposing the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia.  You can call President Obama at the White House Comment line each day from Friday, June 10th until Friday June 17th with the following message:

Please tell President Obama to keep his campaign promise to say NO to the U.S.- Colombia Free Trade Agreement so long as union leaders are being killed with impunity.  Last year along, 51 trade unionists were killed–more than the rest of the world combined.  President Obama,  NO Colombia FTA.  Thank you.”

White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414

-Shelly is the Director of Operations at Arise Chicago

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By Adam Kader

On Saturday, February 19th, over 100 demonstrators rallied in front of the Mexican Consulate in support of the Mineros, the Mexican Miners Union.  Arise Chicago, along with other community groups and unions, joined the United Steel Workers to participate in the Global Days of Action.

In 2006, 65 miners were killed at a mine in Cananea.  63 of the workers’ bodies were never removed.  The company and the Mexican military have prevented the families of the workers from removing the bodies of their loved ones.  The families have not received any compensation from the mining company, Grupo Mexico.  The struggle for compensation is part of a larger struggle that genuinely independent unions in Mexico are fighting for better wages, safe and healthy working conditions, and the right to form unions and collectively bargain free from repression and violence.

Groups planned actions at Mexican consulates around the country, delivering a letter that demanded that the Mexican government:

1.  Hold employer and government officials accountable for the Pasta de Conchos mine explosion that killed 65 miners on February 19, 2006.

2. Abolish systemic violations of workers’ freedom of association, including employer-dominated “protection contracts” and interference in union elections.

3. End the use of force-by the state or private parties-to repress workers’ legitimate demands for democratic unions, better wages and working conditions, and good health and safety conditions.

4. End the campaign of political persecution against the Mexican Miner’s Union and the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union.

Luis Juarez, a Mexican national and a member of Arise Chicago Worker Center, was one of nine speakers at the event.  In his native tongue, Juarez reminded the crowd that the Mineros was one of the earliest and most important unions in Mexico, and that their 1906 strike in Cananeo was a spark for the Mexican Revolution.  Just as immigrants fought for the 8-hour work week in Chicago 125 years ago, immigrant workers in Chicago today are struggling against the same global corporations that are exploiting workers in Mexico.  Juarez’s words of inspiration served to show that the true border is not between U.S. and Mexican workers, but between all workers and the companies that exploit those they employ, regardless of nationality.

In the spirit of solidarity, other speakers noted that like the Mineros, workers were struggling for their fundamental freedom of association in the workplace across other borders closer to Chicago—in Madison and Indianapolis.  Amidst the chanting of “One day longer!” a fellow demonstrator told me she planned on traveling to Indianapolis next.

- Adam Kader is the Director of the Arise Chicago Worker Center

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See the story in The American Prospect, Harold Myerson, February 17, 2011

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