Colombian workers oppressed and killed

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Drink of the Death SquadsDavid Rovics

True story first told to me by Katie Knight from the Colombia Support Network in Montana. Something like half of the union organizers that are killed in the world each year are Colombian. Colombia is also the biggest recipient of military aid in the hemisphere. This, of course, is a coincidence.


Coca-Cola came to Colombia
Seeking lower wages
They got just what they came for
But as we turn the pages
We find the workers didn’t like the sound
Of their children’s hungry cries
So they said we’ll join the union
And they began to organize

So Coke called up a terrorist group
Called the AUC
They said “we’ve got some problems
At the factory”
So these thugs went to the plant
Killed two union men
Told the rest, “you leave the union
Or we’ll be back again”

Now Coke did not complain
About this dirty deed
Why give workers higher wages
When Coke is all they really need
They phoned the AUC
Said “thanks, without you we’d go broke
And to show our appreciation
Here’s one hundred cases of Coke”

The baby drinks it in his bottle
When the water ain’t no good
The dog drinks it
But he don’t know if he should
Some folks say
It’s the nectar of the Gods
But Coke is the drink of the Death Squads

Well the workers wouldn’t take
This situation lying down
Some went up to Georgia
Said “look what’s happened to our town
You American workers got downsized
And as for us we just get shot
And those of us who survive
Our teeth begin to rot”


Well now that’s the situation
What are you gonna do
‘Cause death squads run Colombia
And they’re paid by me and you
We can let Coke run the world
And see what future that will bring
Or we can drink juice and smash the state
Now that’s the real thing


Created March, 2002
Copyright David Rovics 2002, all rights reserved

From daily News Line in Britain:

Thursday, 1 August 2013

AFL-CIO opposes US-Colombia trade deal – Colombian workers are being denied their rights

The AFL-CIO, along with labour and human rights advocates from around the world have opposed the United States–Colombia Free Trade Agreement, arguing that Colombia is not an appropriate trade agreement partner because of its history of denying workers’ rights.

The union pointed to a recent incident at the Colombian air shipping firm Tampa Cargo, which is in partnership with the Colombian airline Avianca, as an illustration of how workers are underpaid while their freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining continue to be denied.

The practice of subcontracting labour to avoid union representation and cut costs continues to be a problem in Colombia, despite commitments made under the Labour Action Plan agreed upon by Colombia and the US in April.

The inadequacy of the plan was highlighted again this month when Tampa Cargo laid off 56 security workers with the intent of seeking a contract with Seguridad Visep a company that currently provides security work for Aviancay.

Tampa Cargo claimed that as a cargo transport airline it cannot have security employees but this is despite the fact that during its 50-year history before merging with Avianca, the company has always had security workers.

Workers at Tampa Cargo founded their union, Association of Tampa Workers, or Asotratampa, in order to counteract the aggressive ‘outsourcing’ policies the company has implemented since it merged with Avianca in 2010.

Gustavo Reyes, president of the union, says that Tampa Cargo required the workers to take voluntary retirement as a precondition for not lowering their severance pay.

Tampa Cargo reportedly gave the laid-off workers the option of working for Seguridad Visep where they would have worse working conditions, with a lower salary and no benefits.

However, the union reports that Seguridad Visep already has hired the majority of their new workforce, who are largely workers with little airport security experience.

Making the situation worse, 14 out of the 56 workers laid off were part of the union’s base, dealing a serious blow to the union. After that loss, the union now has only 56 unionized members out of the 700 Tampa Cargo workers.

AFL-CIO said this latest attempt to subcontract jobs to undermine unionized employees underscores the need for sustained pressure on the Colombian government to guarantee the right to organize and to uphold its promises under the Labour Action Plan.

Colombia is known as a notoriously dangerous nation for trade unionists to opperate with over 4,000 union members and leaders killed between 1986 and 2012 often by the military or government backed guerrillas. Very few people are ever prosecuted or convicted for these murders with an impunity rate of 95% acording to human rights charity Amnesty International.

The AFL-CIO says as long as the United States fails to put pressure on Colombia to meet its obligations under the Labour Action Plan, trade unionists in Colombia will continue to risk their lives when committing themselves to organizing for better wages, benefits and job security.

Tens of thousands of Colombian workers and peasants carried out demonstrations and blocked highways across the country in an August 19 strike against the US-backed government of President Juan Manuel Santos: here.

Farmers Lead Nationwide Strike Against Privatization, Trade Deals in Colombia: here.

16 thoughts on “Colombian workers oppressed and killed

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  2. TUC protests to Colombia over threats

    Wednesday 14 August 2013

    The TUC has protested to Colombia’s ambassador over death threats against trade union activists.

    General secretary Frances O’Grady sent the protest on behalf of six million trade unionists to Mauricio Rodriguez.

    She wrote: “We understand that on August 4 an announcement was emailed by a paramilitary group containing death threats to 30 named people and their families.

    “A number of people on this list are trades unionists from Sintramienergetica and also part of a union delegation involved with labour negotiations with the mining company Drummond Ltd.

    “We ask you to urge the relevant authorities to provide protection, agreed with the named individuals, support the call for a full and impartial investigation into the death threats, the publication of the results of the investigation and bringing those responsible for the threats to justice.”

    Colombia is cited as one of the world’s most dangerous countries for union activists.


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    • Even presuming that is true, that means

      1. At other airlines in Colombia, oppression and exploitation are still worse.

      2. At Tampa, workers’ incomes are still much lower than bosses’.

      3. Half of trade unionists murdered in the whole world are murdered by Colombian death squads and state organisations colluding with them.


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