House Dems urge enforcement of Colombia trade deal

Several House Democrats on Tuesday urged the Obama administration to take steps to protect workers rights in Colombia.

Led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the Democrats said that labor action plan in the Colombia trade deal, which was ratified by Congress in 2011, has fallen far short of expectations and needs to be enforced.

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“Since the U.S. entered into the Colombia trade agreement, my colleagues and I have called upon the administration to fully enforce the agreement’s labor provisions," DeLauro said.

"However, worker abuse continues to run rampant, ongoing threats and acts of violence are not investigated or prosecuted and workers have lost their lives,” she said.

The lawmakers argued that the lack of enforcement on the Colombia agreement should give Congress pause when considering a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal.

"That is why we must reject the nearly identical labor provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership," DeLauro said.

Mark PocanMark William PocanDems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour House Dems to introduce minimum wage bill Congress poised to push back at Trump on Saudi Arabia, Syria MORE (Wis.) said that "nothing has substantively changed in the country and it’s absolutely unconscionable."

"This is the exact reason why we are so skeptical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Pocan said.

On Monday, the AFL-CIO and four labor unions in Colombia filed a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department saying that the promised improvement of labor rights there haven't been realized.

The complaint reports that at total of 1,466 workers have experienced threats or acts of violence, including 99 assassinations, six kidnappings and 955 death threats.

House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sander Levin (Mich.) said that "impunity for violations of worker rights remains rampant."

"Threats against labor leaders continue in large numbers and there have been no convictions since 2011," Levin said.

"Colombia does not have in place an adequate structure — through its laws, regulations, or practices — to ensure that the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining are upheld."

In April, the Obama administration released a report on the five-year anniversary of the Colombia labor action plan finding that there has been “meaningful progress across a number of areas, including a decline in fake worker cooperatives that undermine workers’ rights, a reduction in violence against labor unionists and a doubling of the number of labor inspectors in Colombia’s Ministry of Labor.”

The report also showed that there are challenges that Colombia is working to address.  

U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanUS trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report Overnight Finance: Trump hits China on currency manipulation, countering Treasury | Trump taps two for Fed board | Tax deadline revives fight over GOP overhaul | Justices set to hear online sales tax case Froman joins Mastercard to oversee global business expansion MORE said that the labor action plan has provided a "critical framework to engage Colombia on labor issues that, at one time, were written off as intractable."

"We are committed to continuing to work with Colombia on implementation, bringing us closer to a level playing field for workers both in Colombia and in this country," Froman said last month.

Shane Larson, legislative director of the Communications Workers of America, said that the  news out of Colombia "is a troubling reminder that promises of labor reform don’t mean anything without real monitoring and adequate enforcement to combat labor abuses.”

“Yet instead of learning from past failures, the U.S. government and the USTR seem intent to repeat these mistakes when it comes to the TPP," Larson said.