AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a letter to President Obama on Monday expressing his labor federation’s opposition to the pending free-trade deal with Colombia.
Included with the letter was a list of names of the 22 union leaders who have been killed in Colombia, 15 of those after the United States agreed to a labor action plan with the South American country in April to improve its labor rights record, according to the AFL-CIO. Labor has long vehemently opposed a trade deal with Colombia because of its record of violence against union activists.
“Simply put, Colombia should not be rewarded with a trade agreement until it develops a proven track record of ensuring that workers can exercise the fundamental rights of free association and collective bargaining; preventing violence against union leaders and other social justice advocates; and bringing to justice those who perpetrated such crimes,” Trumka wrote in his letter to Obama.
The labor leader also cited an estimate from the Economic Policy Institute that approval of the Colombia trade deal will lead to 55,000 jobs being lost.
“Given this predicted job loss, at a time when working Americans are already struggling to find jobs, pay their mortgages, and make ends meet, advancing the Colombia Trade Agreement will send the wrong message to the working people of both Colombia and the U.S.,” Trumka wrote.
A vote on Capitol Hill on trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea has edged closer recently.
The Senate voted to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program last week, which aids U.S. workers displaced by trade. The White House said it wouldn’t send the agreements up to Congress until TAA was approved again.