On an April visit to Bogota a Colombia Support Network (CSN) delegation focused attention on the plight of the workers at the General Motors/Colmotores automobile plant, several of whom were denied workers compensation benefits after having been hurt on the job or were terminated when they attempted to bring attention to their grievances with the company through union organization. We met with Colmotores workers in a tent they have set up across the street from the United States Embassy. We had on previous visits to Bogota visited the tent and talked with the protesting workers there. We like they are frustrated that General Motors management has not responded favorably to their legitimate complaints. Their plight has been publicized by the Colombia Section of the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, with which we have collaborated in calling for General Motors/Colmotores to adopt measures to satisfy the workers’ just complaints.
We also continue to be very concerned about the Colombian government’s failure to fulfill a number of the commitments made in the Labor Action Plan which the Obama administration and members of the U.S. Congress had indicated were essential to U.S. approval and implementation of the Colombia-United States Free Trade Agreement.
We requested a meeting with the newly-named Minister of Labor, Clara Lopez Obregon, to discuss these labor issues. We have great respect for Clara, who has been a very persistent supporter of human rights throughout her very impressive career in government service and as a leader of the Polo Democratico Party. She participated with us in a human rights convention in Madison, Wisconsin back in 1989, and ever since has listened sympathetically to our concerns. Minister Lopez agreed to meet with me at her office as our delegation trip was ending. In our meeting, I spoke of the importance for us of the Colmotores workers’ situation and of our concerns that the Labor Action Plan had not been fully implemented by the Colombian government. She was receptive to our concerns.
Several days ago Clara’s office advised us that she planned to come to Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings. We let our Congressman, Mark Pocan, know of Clara’s visit and he expressed great interest in meeting with her. Mark is a member of the Congressional subcommittee concerned with seeing that Colombian workers and labor unions have the protections guaranteed to them under the Labor Action Plan. He has long been interested in Colombia and has visited the country with CSN and is a member of our Advisory Council. We are pleased to report that Minister Lopez and Congressman Pocan, with other members of the subcommittee, had a cordial meeting. We look forward to implementation of workers’ protections and are confident that labor issues will receive sympathetic and careful consideration from Colombia’s Minister of Labor.
John Laun, CSN President, July 9, 2016