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AFL-CIO Urges Obama to Promote Human Rights and Equitable Development on Both Sides of the Border

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President Barack Obama hosted President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico in Washington, D.C., today and, as emphasized in a letter sent by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the global trade union movement is deeply concerned by the human rights crisis in Mexico, which harms working people on both sides of the border.

In the letter, Trumka called on Obama to prioritize protecting human rights, addressing public corruption and impunity, reducing growing inequality and building shared prosperity.

The AFL-CIO’s letter stressed the importance of ending the entrenched impunity enjoyed by the country’s security forces, which have been implicated in torture, extrajudicial killings and disappearances, including the mass killing of 22 civilians by soldiers in June 2014.

The letter raises the recent disappearance and probable murder of 43 students from the teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, by local police and criminal gangs and calls for an immediate investigation. The case reflects the critical need to conduct adequate investigations and prosecutions and build protections for human rights defenders, including journalists and trade union activists who have been subjected to threats and physical violence.

Both countries, said Trumka, must work to end ongoing, severe workers' rights violations in Mexico. The lack of genuine industrial relations have artificially depressed wages, harmed families and limited economic growth.

He called for an end to the widespread use of “protection contracts,” which prevent workers from organizing into independent trade unions, and a re-examination of trade policy and its role in driving worker abuse. 

As the U.S. government continues to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the AFL-CIO has advocated for strong requirements in the trade agreement to make sure that countries with human and workers' rights violations like Mexico  as well as Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam must implement and enforce fundamental labor rights and improve workers’ wages and conditions before they are granted benefits under a trade agreement.

The letter highlighted the immediate needs to address forced labor and child labor on Mexican farms that export produce to the United States. Trumka urged Obama to engage with both the Mexican government and U.S. retailers to ensure consumers are not complicit in a system built on exploitation and abuse. 

The letter also called on Obama to address immigration, both through developing comprehensive reform in the United States and by addressing the root causes of migration through reforming trade policy to promote shared prosperity and sustainable growth.

Read the full letter here, and you can read coverage in La Jornada (in Spanish) here.

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