Rep. Hooley Criticized on Colombia FTA

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Rep. Hooley Criticized for Indecision on Human Rights and Oregon Jobs
Human Rights and Labor Advocates Urge Congresswoman to Oppose the Colombia Free Trade Agreement

West Linn, Ore. — Human rights and labor advocates rallied outside of Representative Darlene Hooley’s West Linn office today, criticizing the sixth-term Congresswoman’s failure to take a position on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which they say will increase human rights abuses and cost Oregon workers their jobs. They urged the Congresswoman to join Oregon’s other House Democrats in opposing the trade agreement.

“In Colombia, people are routinely murdered for speaking out in favor of better working conditions. Trade between nations cannot be ‘free’ when working people in one country are denied their basic freedoms of speech and assembly,” said Arthur Stamoulis, director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, a statewide coalition of labor, environmental and human rights organizations. “This is a question of basic human rights, and Congresswoman Hooley’s indecision on the matter is highly offensive.”

Colombia is by far the deadliest country in the world in which to be a union member. More than 2,300 unionists have been killed in Colombia since 1991, and the rate of impunity for the murder of trade unionists remains around 97%. The proposed trade agreement would, among other things, eliminate most tariffs between the two nations.
“Under the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Oregonians would be competing for jobs with people who are literally forced to accept sweatshop working conditions under the threat of death. That’s a losing situation for working people in both countries,” said Gaylan Prescott of the United Steelworkers. “Opposing this should be a no brainer. I don’t understand Congresswoman Hooley’s indecision.”

“Passage of this trade deal would likely result in new, sweatshop-made goods from Colombia entering the United States, but it would also result in U.S. subsidized grains flooding the Colombian market. That would force millions of small-scale Colombian farmers out of work, greatly expanding drug trafficking and armed conflict in that country,” said Beth Poteet, director of Witness for Peace Northwest. “The Colombia Free Trade Agreement will only exacerbate the human rights catastrophe currently taking place in Colombia. Congresswoman Hooley should oppose it.”

The Colombia Free Trade Agreement emerged in April as President Bush’s top economic priority. The House of Representatives quickly passed a rule change that blocked the pact from being forced to the floor under “Fast Track” rules, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has since repeatedly stated that she is willing to negotiate with the Bush administration to allow a vote.

Oregon Congressmen Earl Blumenauer, David Wu and Peter DeFazio have all publicly announced their opposition to the pact, as have presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as Senate candidates Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick.
An April 25 briefing document by House Ways and Means Committee staff titled “Colombia: A Climate that Suppresses the Free Exercise of Basic Labor Rights,” concluded that:

  • Murders, threats and intimidation of workers continue, denying them their basic labor rights.
  • The Government of Colombia (GOC) is still not making a serious, effective effort to find and punish the perpetrators of this violence.
  • Paramilitaries — primary perpetrators of violence against workers — continue to operate in Colombia.
  • The Colombian legal regime inhibits the exercise of basic workers’ rights.

“Does Representative Hooley really want her last act in Congress to be siding with the Bush administration on an unpopular trade deal that costs Oregonians jobs and rewards human rights violators? If she cares about Oregon’s working families, human rights or her legacy, she’ll publicly denounce this thing,” said Daniel Bonham of Carpenter’s Local 1065 in Salem.

For more information on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, visit:

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