In April, Dole agreed to a "fair process" to determine which of two unions represent more of its flower workers at its Splendor operations in Colombia where workers trying to establish an independent union have been stymied by Dole for over a year and a half.
Colombia's continuing status as the most dangerous country in which to be a trade unionist combined with the government's failure to make any discernable progress on impunity is providing a powerful argument to opponents of a free trade agreement with Colombia that could be voted on before the end of the year.
USLEAP regrets to announce that Alison Paul, USLEAP Campaign Coordinator since February 2003, has resigned in order to pursue on-the-ground opportunities in Latin America. Alison did outstanding work for USLEAP in support of workers in Latin America.
A couple of years ago, USLEAP asked the Starbucks Coffee Company to begin reporting on what impact its code of conduct has had on workers. Starbucks noted the request in its 2004 Annual Corporate Responsibility Report, quoting USLEAP, "The most fundamental corporate responsibility challenge faced by Starbucks, or any other coffee company, is to secure concrete progress in improved working conditions and respect for the basic rights of workers...."
USLEAP has joined with dozens of other worker rights organizations to endorse a campaign by the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) that aims to support worker organizing by requiring collegiate licensees to source a portion of their product from unionized factories where workers are paid a living wage or from democratic-run cooperatives. The proposed Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) seeks to provide political space for workers to organize and negotiate decent wages.
U.S. trade unions again joined the effort to support efforts to cut military aid to Colombia, jointly signing a June 5 letter to Congress. The initiative was organized by USLEAP and circulated it on the Hill prior to the vote on the McGovern amendment.
At the end of April, USLEAP staff met in Bogotá, Colombia with Vice President Francisco Santos to discuss worker rights issues and in particular to learn first hand what steps the government has been taking to address impunity since only 1% of trade union murders have been successfully prosecuted.
On June 8, the House of Representatives approved another massive aid package to Colombia of over $750 million, over 80% of which is military and police aid. An amendment offered by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-MA, that would have shifted $30 million from funds for aerial spraying in Colombia to refugees and emergency humanitarian relief efforts worldwide was defeated by a vote of 172-229.
A USLEAP organized delegation of U.S. trade unionists visited Colombia from April 27 to May 6. Delegates participated in the May Day march and met, among others, with the three major Colombian trade union centrals (CUT, CTC, and CGT), unions representing teachers, health care workers, electrical workers, public sector workers, mineworkers, agricultural workers, the National Labor School, RECALCA (a coalition of organizations and trade unions opposing the free trade agreement), Sinaltrainal (a Coca-Cola workers' union in Colombia that has filed suit against Coca-Cola), Colombian government officials, and the U.S. embassy.