Monday, October 22, 2007

Labor rights - NAFTA style

One of Five:
"Masked gunmen dumped a Guatemalan banana picker's bullet-ridden corpse yards from fields of fruit bound for the United States, a grim reminder of the risks of organizing labor in the Central American country. Marco Tulio Ramirez, killed last month, was the fifth Guatemalan labor leader murdered this year."
NAFTA and CAFTA promised labor rights for workers for all the countries in the agreement, and there even though there is countless evidence to the contrary, it's either written off or ignored all together. This is why when looking ahead at the new series of trade agreements in front of congress, we need to remember one thing: Having strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards ARE NOT THE GOALS of these agreements - THEY ARE THE OBSTACLES.
Case and Point: Following the negotiations of the Great May Sellout, Pelosi and Rangel defended their mind boggling decision to negotiate more Free Trade agreements with President Bush in secret by explaining that these agreements were different, and that there were labor and environmental protections in the deal. The problem with that?
"The US Chamber of Commerce welcomed the bipartisan deal, saying it would secure support for Congressional approval of the four pending bilateral trade agreements... [Said Tom Donohue, president and chief executive of the world's largest business federation.] "we are encouraged by assurances that the labor provisions cannot be read to require compliance with ILO Conventions."
The US Chamber of Commerce sees it as a positive that these standards cannot be enforced either in the United States, or any of the countries where deals are still pending. We should probably give them credit for being at least being honest, and admitting the true motive of these free trade agreements... but it doesn't make it any better. The point here is that until the fundamental model of these deals is changed, different results cannot be expected. And as the situation in Guatemala shows, the consequences of these failures are often matters of life and death.

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