What the Colom­bia trade pact would do to work­ing fam­i­lies

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - Larry Co­hen, Washington The writer is pres­i­dent of the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Work­ers of Amer­ica.

In 2008, I met in Colom­bia with fam­i­lies whose fa­thers and sis­ters were mur­dered for their work as trade union­ists strug­gling to give work­ers a voice for good jobs and a bet­ter life. The Dec. 31 col­umn by Ed­ward Schu­macher-Matos [“Colom­bia: Where pol­i­tics trumps re­al­ity”] dis­missed the re­al­ity I wit­nessed — the wrench­ing and re­lent­less at­tack on worker and hu­man rights in Colom­bia.

Equally trou­bling dur­ing my visit was that the Colom­bian govern­ment never ad­dressed the fact that just 18 per­cent of eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive adults in Colom­bia are clas­si­fied as “work­ers.” Some 15 mil­lion work­ers have no rights, even though they are em­ployed in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, jour­nal­ism and other fields. This is a trou­bling global trend that is no model for Colom­bia or the United States.

The pro­posed free-trade agree­ment will not ben­e­fit work­ers in ei­ther coun­try. It will cre­ate no new jobs in the United States, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion. Many ru­ral work­ers in Colom­bia will lose house­hold in­come and em­ploy­ment as well. Multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions may re­al­ize gains from in­creased trade, but with no rights for work­ers in Colom­bia and sink­ing rights for work­ers in the United States, those gains won’t be shared by work­ing fam­i­lies.

The pro­posed free-trade agree­ment will not ben­e­fit work­ers in the U.S. or Colom­bia.

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