Act Now to stop the Colombia Free Trade Agreement and the Clinton involvement

UPDATED-> Colombia Free Trade Agreement off the fast track (4/11/08)

In Colombia it's outright dangerous to be a unionist, while some claim that only 39 union leaders were killed last year is a good thing, we here at Joe's union Review tend to think differently. It' s Now Or Never People, I called the desk of Hillary Clinton and had to leave a message, there are 3 E-Action campaign's, get involved before it's too late.

The Scoop From AFL-CIO
Photo credit: Marcelo Salinas
House Set to Vote on Removing Fast Track Timetable from Colombia Trade Deal

by Mike Hall, Apr 9, 2008

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that tomorrow the House will vote to lift the 90-day Fast Track time limit for the House to vote on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that President Bush sent to Congress yesterday.

Pelosi said Congress and the president should be focusing their energy on the needs of America’s working families during these precarious economic times, not on the flawed trade deal. She told reporters she told Bush on Monday that:

we really had to continue our conversation about addressing the economic concerns of America’s working families.

Says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney:

We agree with Speaker Pelosi that Congress must keep a hard focus on the economic crisis facing America’s working families—and certainly before consideration of another flawed trade deal. We applaud her for taking decisive action to reassert congressional authority over trade.

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From the E-mail box

American Rights At Work

Dear Joseph,

Urgent: First Vote Tomorrow

Say NO to Fast-Tracking the Colombia "Free" Trade Agreement

Write Your Reps. Now!

There's little in life that's free. You’re savvy enough to look for the hidden costs, or the catch.

Americans now know the catch in "free" trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA. The hidden costs of these pacts took a tremendous toll: 1 million jobs disappeared, countless communities collapsed, and workers' rights were exploited at home and abroad. 1

But now George W. Bush and Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Labor, want another "free" trade deal, this time with Colombia. To make matters worse, Bush wants to unilaterally "fast-track" this agreement in 90 days.

The first vote takes place tomorrow in the House of Representatives. Tell your Members of Congress and Secretary Elaine Chao that you oppose the Colombia free trade agreement. We can stop this.


Outside of the obvious negative consequences for the United States, the Colombian free trade agreement (FTA) fails to meaningfully address a severe Colombian crisis: union members there are regularly assassinated.

Violent incidents against union members are pervasive in Colombia, and the country's president has done little to stop the attacks. Since 1991, at least 2,245 union members have been killed for supporting a union, including 18 deaths already in 2008. 2

Believe it or not, Elaine Chao doesn't seem to think that's a problem. She even had the gall to suggest that because fewer union members are being killed than in previous years, we should implement the trade agreement - without putting in place real protections to stop violence against union members. 3

Voice your opposition to the Colombia free trade agreement - write to your representatives and Elaine Chao now:


You've heard from me before about the sorry state of labor law in the United States; most of America's workers never get a free and fair chance to join a union because of threats, intimidation, and misinformation from their employers.

But as bad as America's workers have it, Colombia's aspiring union members literally put their lives on the line to have a voice at work. This is an unacceptable situation, and the United States should not engage in agreements with leaders who overlook serious issues like the assassination of union members.

With Bush threatening to unilaterally pass this agreement in less than three months, your voice is needed to take away his power to do so. Please write to your representatives now.

Thanks for all you do for workers everywhere.


Liz Cattaneo
American Rights at Work


1. Revisiting NAFTA, report by Economic Policy Institute, 9/06: http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/bp173
2. Labor Rights and Freedom of Association in Colombia, report by the Colombian Trade Union Federations, 10/07: http://www.aflcio.org/issues/jobseconomy/globaleconomy/upload/colombianlabor_english.pdf
3. Department of Commerce press release, 2/27/08: http://www.commerce.gov/NewsRoom/PressReleases_FactSheets/PROD01_005275

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about American Rights at Work.

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for American Rights at Work.
From (4/8/08)

AFL-CIO Working Families E-Activist Network

Dear Joseph,

President Bush is demanding a vote on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) before he leaves office next year. The Colombia FTA is wrong for workers both in the United States and Colombia.

Tell your senators and representative that you OPPOSE the Colombia Free Trade Agreement and that they should, too. Use our toll-free number to do so today:


And please click here to let us know how your lawmakers plan to vote on the Colombia FTA.

With the U.S. economy in near free fall, President Bush has sent the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to Capitol Hill—Bush wants to force a vote before he leaves office next January.

The all-out, nationwide mobilization to let members of Congress know that working Americans oppose this deal begins today.

As the fight gears up, we need to know whose side your members of Congress are on.

Call your senators and representative today to ask if they will side with workers and oppose the Colombia FTA. The call is toll free:


We need you to report back to us: Click here to let us know how your lawmakers will vote.

The deal is wrong for workers in both countries.

Bush has made passing this agreement a priority, even though it will do next to nothing for the failing U.S. economy.

The Colombia FTA represents a continuation of the Bush administration’s failed trade policies, an agenda that has contributed to the loss of more than 3 million manufacturing jobs since 2000, skyrocketing trade deficits and shrinking paychecks.

Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for union members—39 trade unionists were murdered in 2007 and another 17 to date in 2008. Of the more than 2,500 murders of trade unionists since 1986, only some 70 cases—about 3 percent—have resulted in convictions.

Balanced trade agreements must guarantee the right to organize, lift the lives of workers in both countries and prevent exploitation. But this can’t happen in a country where workers who try to organize are killed.

Colombia’s government has thwarted workers' right to organize and bargain collectively—by weakening labor protections, refusing to register legitimate unions and failing to enforce the law against anti-union discrimination.

Remember to call your representative and senators today. Tell them to oppose the Colombia FTA: 1-866-338-5720.

In solidarity,

Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO

P.S. Please tell your friends to call the U.S. House and Senate today at 1-866-338-5720. Together, we can stop the Colombia FTA.

Click the link below to tell your friends about this campaign.
From (4/4/08)


It has been nearly a month since the murder of Leonidas Gomez Rozo, a leader of the National Union of Bank Workers of Colombia.
His murder in early March was one of several violent attacks against trade unionists in that country -- many of which have been highlighted on LabourStart's Colombia news page recently.
Today we've been asked by UNI Global Union -- a global union federation to which Rozo's union was affiliated -- to flood Colombian embassies around the world with messages of protest next week.
Please send off your message by clicking here. And spread the word.
Eric Lee
More News,

Working Life - "Killing In The Name Of So-Called "Free Trade" (UPDATED)" (4/7/08)

I keep thinking that there will be a limit on how far thinking people will go to turn a blind eye to the death and misery brought to us courtesy of so-called "free trade". But, lo and behold, every day brings new wonders at the capacity of our government, and its servants in the "free market", to ignore reality in the service of profits and "efficiency" and "low costs". Prepare yourself for another example coming down the pipeline this week when the Administration tries to ram another so-called "free trade" deal down the throats of the Congress—-and down the throats of the American people.

The uproar over Mark Penn’s work for the Colombian government, and his resignation from the Clinton campaign, has partly obscured the content of the issue (most of the traditional media and, frankly, progressive media and blogs, have been far more focused on Penn and the political/electoral insider story than the actual Colombia deal). This pact, which is in a whole lot of trouble, as it should be, is awful for a variety of reasons. But, the main one is this: union activists and leaders have a funny way of ending up dead in Colombia, courtesy of death squads that have been linked to the government.

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The Clinton Involvement

Change To Win
"Mark Penn Thinks You Are Really Dumb" (4/9/08)
Move Along Folks, Nothing to See Here

... dumb enough to believe that he has been fired from Hillary Clinton's campaign staff, when in fact he has just had his job title changed.

I posted about this yesterday, of course, but since that post went live the evidence of Penn's non-dismissal continues to mount.

Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports "Mark Penn Speaks (In Private): Will Still Advise Clintons, Calms Nervous Aides":

Mark Penn, who resigned over the weekend as the Clinton campaign's chief strategist, went into full damage control mode on Monday, hosting a conference call with Burson Marsteller's managing directors to persuade them that the fallout from his resignation was both overblown and would soon pass.

Peppered with questions from colleagues -- one mentioned her "pretty panicked client," another asked bluntly, "Ultimately did you think that it was the best thing for the company [to work for Clinton's campaign]?" -- Penn insisted that "the situation has played itself out."

But he confirmed that while his title with the campaign had changed -- and his work load would undoubtedly decrease -- he still would play a direct advisory role for Clinton.

Karen Tumulty at Time Magazine reports "Mark Penn is Not Out":

Two sources confirm Marc Ambinder's scoop that Penn was on the campaign's message-of-the-day call this morning, and was involved in debate preparation this afternoon.

Tom DeFrank and Michael McAuliff at the New York Daily News report "Mark Penn still in Clinton loop: source":

Hillary Clinton's political guru may have been pushed from the top spot in her campaign, but he didn't land in the grave.

Despite embarrassing the White House hopeful by consulting for the Colombian government on a U.S. trade agreement she opposes, Mark Penn remains "very much in the loop," a Clinton source said...

"Reports of Mark's death are greatly exaggerated," said a Penn confidant.

"You don't break a circle like that easily and quickly," a senior Clinton adviser agreed.

So the message to insiders is: Penn's not going anywhere, just wait a few days for the public to stop paying attention and everything will be back to Business As Usual.

That's disappointing.

Don't be a Mark Penn -- help stop the Colombia "free" trade agreement! Fair trade supporters across America are writing to their Members of Congress today urging them to oppose this deeply flawed agreement. Use our easy online form to write your Members and help send the Mark Penns of the world packing.

Huffington Post "Bill Clinton's Ties To Colombia Trade Deal Stronger Than Even Penn's" (4/8/08)

On Sunday evening, Sen. Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn, resigned from his post after it was revealed he was working (on the side) for the passage of a Colombia Free Trade Agreement that his candidate opposed.

But within the Clinton campaign, Penn is not the highest-ranking adviser with financial ties to groups and individuals supporting the passage of the measure.

Former President Bill Clinton has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars speaking on behalf of a Colombia-based group pushing the trade pact, and representatives of that organization tell The Huffington Post that the former president shared their sentiment.

In June 2005, Clinton was paid $800,000 by the Colombia-based Gold Service International to give four speeches throughout Latin America. The organization is, ostensibly, a development group tasked with bringing investment to the country and educating world leaders about the Colombia's business opportunities.

The group's chief operating officer, Andres Franco, said in an interview that the group supports the congressional ratification of the free trade agreement and that, when Clinton was on his speaking tour, he expressed similar opinions.

"He was supportive of the trade agreement at the time that he came, but that was several years ago. In the present context, I don't know what his position would be. It is not only about union trade rights. It is about what benefit or damage it can do to the US economy," said Franco. "Events with the Clinton campaign [concerning Mark Penn] are not good at all for the trade agreement... Right now it became a campaign issues and that is sad, because it needs to go through."

The comments were supported by a June 23, 2005 article from the news portal Terra (uncovered by Ben Smith at Politico) in which Clinton offered unambiguous support for the free trade agreement with Colombia.

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