No trade union rights in Iraq and Colombia

This video from the USA is called Shawna Bader: “Iraqi Oil Workers are Living Under Tyranny!”

According to Luc Cortebeeck, chair of the ACV, the Christian trade union federation in Belgium, at the International Labour Organisation in Geneva; about lack of trade union rights in various countries:

Eg, there was the bombing of the offices of the Iraqi trade unions by the United States armed forces. That certainly did not happen by chance. …

Or, take the fact that during last year [2007], again forty trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia.

5 thoughts on “No trade union rights in Iraq and Colombia


    Number of cases growing in Army

    By Chris Kenning — — June 21, 2008

    In a nondescript barracks at Fort Knox, Pfc. James Burmeister awaits his fate for deserting his unit while on leave from Iraq.

    The 22-year-old is set to face a court-martial at the Kentucky post — one of only two U.S. processing centers for Army deserters.

    Now his mother, Helen Burmeister, is doing everything she can to keep her son out of jail. She will demonstrate outside the post today in hopes of persuading the military to let her take her son home.

    “I’m hoping to take him back to Oregon with me,” said Burmeister, who says her son struggles with post-traumatic stress, injuries from a roadside bomb and questions about U.S. tactics. “He needs to get all this behind him.”

    Burmeister is among the 4,698 U.S. Army soldiers who deserted in fiscal year 2007, a number that risen 92 percent since 2004.

    Army officials say they can’t pinpoint the cause of the increase, but they don’t believe it results from mounting disillusionment with the war in Iraq. They say desertions still represent less than 1 percent of its force.

    While prosecutions are rare, they have increased slightly since the 1990s — partly because the offense is viewed more seriously during a time of war, officials said.

    “Our leadership is concerned about desertion rates,” said Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman, “but not to the point we’ve taken drastic measures.”

    Many people who desert — roughly defined as being absent without leave for more than 30 days with the intent to stay away — are junior soldiers who leave after basic training for family problems, while others are combat veterans or those who object to the war, officials say.

    Punishments vary

    Army officials don’t actively pursue them, arguing they’re too busy fighting a war. Most deserters turn themselves in to remove the felony warrant that is issued, or are caught during routine traffic stops.

    The consequences vary. They can be as light as a reprimand and return to their unit, or as harsh as a court-martial resulting in a bad-conduct or dishonorable discharge that results in up to five years in jail.

    Most get an “other than honorable” administrative discharge.

    Last year, the Army convicted 108 soldiers of desertion. The decision of whether to prosecute is often left to unit commanders.

    “If a soldier deserts his unit two weeks before going to Iraq, you’ve got a hole — a fire team with one guy short,” Edgecomb said. “That’s more serious than someone leaving the Army before they actually were assigned to their unit.”

    Soldiers who have gone AWOL or deserted — the vast majority do so in the United States, not while overseas — are processed through either Fort Knox or Fort Sill, Okla.

    Fort Knox officials wouldn’t provide numbers, but it’s likely that 40 to 60 soldiers accused of desertion pass through the Kentucky post each week, said J.E. McNeil, director of the Center on Conscience and War, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., that helps those on deserter status.

    While there, they live in barracks with soldiers in similar trouble, working patrol or cleaning duty and meeting with their military and private attorneys. They are confined to base but nothing prevents them from leaving, military officials say. “The point is you’re there (so you can) get on with your life,” McNeil said.

    Fort Knox spokesman Ryan Brus declined to discuss Burmeister’s case, but confirmed that he was charged with “desertion with intent to shirk important service.” If convicted, he could receive a reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of two-thirds pay per month for a year, 12 months of confinement and a bad-conduct discharge.

    Even if he is simply discharged, “he’s worried he’ll lose his benefits, but at this point, it’s not worth it,” Helen Burmeister said.

    Burmeister was unavailable for comment, and the military would not discuss his service history or any medical issues. But his mother and friends said in interviews he joined the Army in 2005, hoping to help rebuild Iraq. Once there, he found himself manning a machine gun atop a Humvee.

    He was disturbed by tactics that he told his family included a baiting operation designed to lure insurgents, an approach detailed in articles by The New York Times and Washington Post in 2007. The Army has said it doesn’t discuss specific methods.

    In February 2007, while assigned to the 18th Infantry Division in Iraq, his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. He suffered shrapnel to his face and hearing loss.

    Deciding to desert

    While on recovery leave in Germany, he decided to fly to Canada instead of returning to duty in Iraq.

    “He was just a regular young guy who was shaken up, and didn’t know what to do,” Sonia Vani, a Canadian friend of Burmeister, said in a telephone interview from Ottawa. She said he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had a seizure, possibly from a brain injury.

    But he eventually decided to return, and since March, he’s been at Fort Knox. Earlier this week, his mother came from Oregon in hopes of persuading the Army to grant him an administrative discharge with a loss of benefits, but so far the Army hasn’t granted that request.

    “He did go to war, did what he was asked, now it’s time to let him go,” Helen Burmeister said.

    Anita Anderson of Lexington, an activist who helps deserters, said many young men who deserted have jobs and a new life and were apparently never reported as deserters.

    Her son, Darrell Anderson, went AWOL in 2005 after deciding he couldn’t continue to fight without killing innocent civilians. In 2006, he returned after 20 months in Canada and turned himself in at Fort Knox. He was given a less-than-honorable discharge with a loss of benefits.

    Since then, he has worked as a security guard in Oregon and a busboy in California and now works at a grocery store in Lexington. He still struggles with post-traumatic stress, but said he doesn’t regret his decision to go AWOL.

    “It wasn’t the easy choice, it was the hard choice,” he said. “I lost my GI Bill, my veteran’s benefits — but I did what’s right, and I’ve still got my pride.”

    Reporter Chris Kenning can be reached at (502) 582-4697.


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