Miller Meets with Colombian President to Discuss Labor Rights Abuses

WASHINGTON—Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, today joined fellow Democratic lawmakers in a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to discuss labor and human rights abuses in Colombia. 

“The long-standing challenge of securing labor rights in Colombia continues to this day,” Rep. Miller said after the meeting.  “Together with Rep. McGovern, I traveled to Colombia last summer to examine the implementation of the Labor Action Plan and found that it is not working. Fines aren’t being collected, and third-party contracting through associations that fail to guarantee the right to organize and bargain collectively persists. We must address these schemes to evade the law, fix the problems, and give workers a voice.

“I’m very encouraged by reports from Colombia’s Minister of Labor Rafael Pardo Rueda and our Department of Labor this morning indicating that there is an understanding that these issues need to be resolved,” Miller continued. “Minister Pardo gave his assurance that his department is taking the problems very seriously.”

In April 2011, the two presidents signed the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan (LAP), designed to strengthen workers’ ability to exercise their basic rights and to significantly reduce violence perpetrated against Colombian workers and unions. The LAP was signed as part of developing the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) because the FTA had been languishing in the House of Representatives, in part because the severe labor and human rights abuses in Colombia.

“This is an ongoing agenda of the utmost importance,” said Rep. Miller. “The question of a labor plan is again on the table because the U.S. is engaged in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations with Vietnam. As in Colombia, an unenforceable side agreement must not be the key that unlocks the votes to pass trade agreements.”

In August of this year, Rep. Miller and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), traveled to Colombia as representatives of the Congressional Monitoring Group on Labor Rights in Colombia. Reps. Miller and McGovern assessed the implementation and real-world impact of the LAP. The two met with a wide range of stakeholders—including workers and union representatives, business groups, labor and human rights experts, government officials, and leaders of ethnic minorities—and found that severe labor rights abuses continue.

Read the report on their trip here.