Sunday, July 08, 2007

Driving While Organizing

In Colombia, organizing a union can cost you your life. Those of us who follow either Colombia or unions (or, in my case, both), already know this:

More than 4,000 Colombian union leaders have been assassinated since 1986, according to the U.S. State Department, accounting for most union murders in the world during the period.
Many of these people organize unions within foreign companies in Colombia or within subsidiaries of foreign companies -- Coca-Cola bottlers are particularly notorious, as I recall. In this case, it's an Alabama-based coal company.
The lawsuit alleges Drummond's top Colombian executive was seen handing money to paramilitary thugs in exchange for killing the men, who were arguing with the company over higher wages and better workplace safety at the time.
And in case you missed this one, speaking of notorious US-based companies operating in Latin America.
Earlier this year, in a case that never went to trial, U.S. banana giant Chiquita Brands International Inc. pleaded guilty to paying $1.7 million in protection money to Colombian paramilitaries between 1997 and 2004.

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