Leo Gerard, international president for the United Steelworkers (USW) has
expressed strong support for the decision by the Obama Administration and
the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to protect
workers’ safety and free speech rights by moving forward with arbitration
against Guatemala for violating labor rights under terms of the Dominican
Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).
“Workers in Guatemala have lost income, their jobs and in some cases, their
lives attempting to exercise basic rights.” Gerard said. “The provisions in
the trade agreement must be enforced on the right of free association by
Guatemala workers to organize and bargain collectively.
“This labor case by the U.S. under an FTA is a milestone for workers in both
countries. The previous administration ignored the systematic violation of
these rights, so we applaud Ambassador Ron Kirk of the USTR in ensuring
these rights will be respected.
“The USTR action must be followed by efforts to end the violence against
unionists and denial of their rights in Mexico and Colombia and elsewhere in
The U.S. complaint is based on a petition filed by the AFL-CIO and six
Guatemalan unions in 2008 under the Bush Administration. It alleged that
Guatemala had a pattern of failing to enforce its labor laws related to the
right of workers to organize and bargain collectively.
Under CAFTA-DR rules, the arbitration panel will consist of two panelists
and a chairman. After agreeing on a chair, the panel will then have 120 days
to issue its initial report. A final report would be due 30 days later and
released to the public after 15 more days.
A fact sheet on the increased violence directed at Guatemalan workers in
violation of the CAFTA-DR labor rights provision is at: