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Colombia FTA: Rewarding Promises Instead Of Performance

7:32 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Uribe protest

Uribe protest by Public Citizen, on Flickr

Tragically, the government of Colombia exhibits the behavior of an addict. And, just as regrettably, the United States is co-dependent, so addicted to so called free trade that it plans to award Colombia an agreement based solely on promises.

Addicts always promise. They’ll stop, they pledge. Their co-dependents desperately want to believe, so they cooperate with the addicts’ demands.

Colombia, the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists, has pledged to try to stop the murders to persuade Congress to approve a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Promises, promises.

And the United States has agreed to accept those promises rather than demand performance before signing an FTA. American’s Wall Street banks and multi-national corporations crave another FTA so badly they will believe anything.

When the Colombia FTA was first proposed, Congress refused to approve it because so many trade unionists are assassinated each year by the Colombian military and paramilitary forces that the murders exceed the number of unionists killed in all other countries of the world combined. In 2007, the year that former President George W. Bush completed the agreement, 39 Colombian unionists were slain.

The Colombian government knew why Congress denied approval. It could have responded four years ago by protecting trade unionists and preserving their lives. It did not.

Instead, the murders increased. In 2008, 52 Colombian trade unionists were assassinated, one a week. In 2009, the number declined by 5 to 47, but it was back up to 52 last year. Six have been slain so far this year, including Hector Orozco and Gilardo Garcia, members of the agricultural union known as Association of Peasant Workers of Tolima, who were threatened by the Colombian military just before they were assassinated. Promises, promises.
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False Fear: Cyborgs Instead Of CEOs

8:06 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Cyborg

Cyborg by mize2oo5, on Flickr

The nightmare for far too many is Cyborgs. The public fears HAL, the 2001 Space Odyssey computer that killed astronauts rather than forfeit its objective.

So terrified of the sentient machine, citizens overlook the allegory. The soft-spoken, reasonable-sounding HAL behaves exactly like a greed-driven, multi-national corporation. The corporate mission is profit. With 29 workers massacred in a Massey mine explosion and 11 slain in the BP oil rig explosion in just one month last year, greedy corporations have shown they’re willing to kill rather than forfeit their profit objective.

In America, the UK and Europe, the entities that should be feared — greedy corporations — are pulling politicians’ strings. Reckless speculation by multi-national financial corporations took down the world economy, creating the worst recession since the Great Depression. Governments – in the UK, Europe and America – used worker tax dollars to bail out the banks. Now those big banks are granting outsized bonuses and pay packages to their executives while demanding that governments balance recession-ruined budgets with cuts to social services, education, pay and pensions for government workers and worker’s rights to collectively bargaining for better lives.

Workers, students and pensioners in the UK and Europe have protested these measures for a year, from general strikes in Greece to national strikes in France. In the U.K. students, in the largest numbers since the 1960s, protested education fee increases. Last weekend, the U.K.’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) organized the March for the Alternative in which a quarter million demonstrators walked for five hours in London to protest austerity imposed on workers while corporations get breaks.

The diamond-crusted rich on both sides of the Atlantic have determined that workers and the vulnerable will pay the consequences of the bankster-caused recession. And they’re exploiting the financial crisis to strip workers of collective bargaining rights, preventing them from ever regaining what they’ve lost.

That is what’s going on in Wisconsin — and in a half dozen other American states where right-wing legislatures and governors are passing or pressing for legislation decimating workers’ rights to collectively bargain, even after workers accepted pay cuts to help balance budgets.

The disingenuousness of these right-wing governors in blaming public employees is clear. First of all, many of the state leaders granted huge tax breaks to corporations, lowering the states’ anticipated revenues, then demanded state workers bear the brunt of filling budget deficits.
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On Women’s Day, GOP Attacks Women

8:48 am in Labor, Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Not like Valentine’s Day, which is about love and chocolate, or Mother’s Day, which is about sentimentality and breakfast in bed, International Women’s Day is about equality and autonomy.

The first commemoration occurred on March 19, 1911, a time when most governments in the world, including the U.S. and Canada, barred women from voting and most employers refused to hire women, ghettoizing them in sweatshops.

Six days after that first international call to action for women, flames engulfed such a sweatshop, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, killing 146 workers, the vast majority of them young women aged 16 to 25, some of whom jumped to their deaths from the 9th floor rather than burn.

Women can vote now. They can hold most jobs, though not all, including combat positions in the U.S. military. And their pay is only 75 percent of men’s. So the struggle for equality and autonomy is not over. Yet the GOP is intent on setting women back. If the Republican governors across the country succeed in confiscating collective bargaining rights from public sector workers, women will be hurt most.

The grotesque working conditions at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, including locked and blocked exit doors, a failed fire escape, and fire hazards such as oily floors and wicker baskets of scraps, will be invoked on this centennial commemoration of International Women’s Day, as they were during observances in the early years after the tragedy. These conditions epitomized the very kind of oppression that International Women’s Day had been created to eradicate.
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In a Democracy, Freedom of Assembly Trumps “Free Enterprise”

8:01 am in Economy, Labor by Leo W. Gerard

Sign at pro-workers rally, Madison WI. (photo: WxMom via Flickr)

It’s illegal in America now to buy or sell a human being, but a recorded telephone conversation between a Republican governor and a guy he thought was a billionaire benefactor shows that it’s still possible to own a politician.

Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker didn’t have time to talk to Democratic leaders or union officials about his anti-union legislation – a proposal that has incited protests by tens of thousands for more than a week in Madison. But he jumped on the phone for 20 minutes this week when told the caller was billionaire David Koch, who was Walker’s second largest campaign contributor, who provided $1 million to a GOP fund to attack Walker’s opponent and who bankrolls radical libertarian organizations and the Tea Party.

Republicans like Walker, owned by billionaires like Koch, are fulfilling demands from corporate interests that government “free” enterprise by slashing corporate taxes and regulation. Over the past three years, America has suffered the consequences of a government under-funded after tax breaks to the rich and under-performing after years of lax regulation. The result: a growing federal deficit, the Wall Street collapse, the BP oil spill and the deaths of 29 Upper Big Branch miners. Still, Republicans want more government atrophy. That would leave only one restraint on corporate control of the economy, environment and government.

That one restraint is labor unions. A union is workers using their constitutionally-guaranteed freedom to assemble, the right to get together as a group, in this case a labor organization, to negotiate collectively with employers for better wages, benefits and working conditions.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →