Colombians Mourn Colleagues Killed in Past Two Months
When 14 Colombian trade union members were in the United States for a training program, they were unable to forget just how dangerous it is to support unions in their home country. During the two months they were here, four of their colleagues were assassinated.
In a memorial service at AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., yesterday, we joined the Solidarity Center and the Colombian workers to honor those who were killed and to reaffirm our determination to fight for workers’ and human rights in that country.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler told the group:
We want our Colombian sisters and brothers to know that as we fight for basic trade union rights in this country, we are totally dedicated to their struggle to organize and collectively bargain in an atmosphere free of fear, terror and violence.
Shuler noted the AFL-CIO has recognized the courage of the Colombian union movement by presenting the 2008 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to Colombian human rights activist Yessika Hoyos.
The Colombian workers participated in the Trade Union Strengthening program sponsored by the Solidarity Center, with funding and support from the U.S. Department of Labor. As part of the program, the Colombians joined union organizers on the ground for three weeks. They worked with organizers from AFSCME, TCU/IAM, North Shore (Mass.) Labor Council, Sacramento Central Labor Council and the Teamsters. TCU/IAM, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Teamsters also provided training for the Colombians.
Colombia is the deadliest country in the world for trade unionists. At least 34 trade unionists have been killed this year in Colombia, with 10 deaths in the past eight weeks alone.