Report from Columbia

Monday, September 14, 2009

(DC Labor)

The difficult situation of Colombia workers also creates a bad situation for workers in the United States, Nestor Bruges Medina said. Bruges is the President the Atlantico region of the Alternative Democratic Pole, the main opposition party in Colombia. I spoke to him last week during a visit to Barranquilla, a city in northern Colombia. Polo, as it is known in Colo mbia, is a pro-union political party that draws much of its support from the Colombian labor movement and Colombian workers in general, as well as from the middle-class and students. Polo has elected representatives serving in the Colombian Congress and Senate, and the Mayor of the capital city, Bogota, is a member of the Party. The latter position is the second most important elected position in the country, after the President. Polo opposes the U.S-Colombian Free Trade Agreement, which it sees as harmful to its countys workers, and Bruges was visibly moved when I showed him Union City reports about recent demonstrations in Washington against the proposed agreement and in support of workers in the Colombian flower industry. Bruges expressed appreciation for these acts of solidarity on the part of U.S. activists. He told me of how a free trade zone in the province of Atlantico caused the closing of local industries in Barranquilla, the city in Atlantico where Polos offices are located. He also said that the countys labor movement is demanding a 10% raise in the minimum wage next year. The government opposes this initiative, setting up the possibility of a confrontation over the issue. In Barranquilla, the party has also advocated on behalf of the citys licensed street peddlers, who have sometimes been removed by the authorities from their sites without being given alternative locations.
- Carl Goldman, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 26


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