Dems and labor bosses use big lie against trade pact

Michael Fumento:

HOUSE Speaker Nancy Pelosi has put US- Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement on the back burner - apparently permanently.

"The Colombia FTA is dead on arrival," explained Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), co-founder of the House Trade Working Group. "Congress can't take up an agreement with Colombia until the horrific violence and labor-rights record are addressed.

So it's not sheer protectionism that drives the Democrats and Big Labor, as the deal's supporters claim. It's "horrific violence," especially against unions.

John Sweeney, president of the largest US federation of unions, the AFL-CIO, detailed the allegations in a Washington Post op-ed April 14: "In Colombia, joining a union or advocating for workers' rights can be a de facto death sentence," he said. "The human-rights atrocities against union activists and supporters are not isolated, rogue events; they are committed largely by the armed forces and paramilitary organizations with ties to elected officials close to President [Alvaro] Uribe."

Sweeney also insisted "human-rights groups say extrajudicial murders of civilians by the Colombian armed forces on Uribe's watch are increasing" and "more than 400 Colombian unionists have been murdered during Uribe's tenure."

Not true.

Yes, Colombia has a high murder rate. With much of the country still in the control of vicious leftist narco-terrorists (supported by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez), you'd expect a high murder rate among any one group - from union members to midgets. That said, last year's 17,198 homicides (among 45 million people) was a drop of 40 percent from the 28,837 in 2002.

Deaths among Colombia's union members plummeted even farther - from a high of 275 in 1996 to only 39 last year. That's a drop of 86 percent in a decade.

And that's 39 killings (a figure the AFL-CIO itself cited last month) out of about 800,000 union workers - or about five murders per 100,000 union members. How does that constitute "a de facto death sentence" - when the murder rate for the population as a whole is about eight times higher?

In fact: "The Colombian government," notes Reuters, has "tripled spending on protection for unionists, human-rights activists and other at-risk individuals and established a special unit to prosecute crimes against trade unionists."


It is not surprising that the union bosses and Democrats would lie to kill this deal because the economics of it for American workers makes so much sense. It would means more sales for heavy equipment makers, car makers, appliance makers etc., almost all of which use American union labor. The GOP should run hard against Democrats in districts that employ these people this year and tell them what their representatives have done to their paychecks.


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