Colombia Trade Deal Finalized Over Protests From Labor, Human Rights Groups
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Nonetheless, the letter cites a provision of the Labor Action Plan in its petition to authorities, suggesting that Plan could enable some workers to redress grievances if actually implemented. But there seems to be little political will to actually put those rules into effect in the factories and the fields, where communities are already besieged by economic turmoil, civil conflict, and rural impoverishment.
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, an advocate with WOLA, told In These Times,
If the LAP is fully and properly applied (this does not formally form part of the FTA) it will lead to great improvements. However, the Obama Administration chose to sacrifice the one great opportunity it had to really change things in Colombia by declaring an early victory.
Sánchez-Garzoli added that while labor provisions similar to the Labor Action Plan were attached to the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), a precursor to the Colombia deal, but have failed to provide meaningful recourse for workers. In the long run, she said, the Colombia pact “will make it even harder for workers to organize.”
Washington’s green light for the Labor Action Plan isn’t the end of the story. Countervailing forces against neoliberal trade measures like the Colombia agreement, and other policies like the drug war, are gathering momentum across the hemisphere.
The growing militancy of left, indigenous and environmental movements in Latin America, together with growing backlash in the U.S. against corporate impunity, present alternative platforms that place the protection of workers and the environment over free-market politics. While the Labor Action Plan of the Washington Consensus might remain mostly on paper, pro-labor action at the grassroots is rolling on, with or without official approval.
Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times. She is a regular contributor to the labor rights blog Working In These Times, Colorlines.com, and Pacifica’s WBAI. Her work has also appeared in Alternet, Ms. Magazine, Newsday, and her old zine, cain. Follow her on Twitter at @meeshellchen or reach her at michellechen @ inthesetimes.com.