Four years ago today, the AFL-CIO and six Guatemalan trade unions filed a complaint under the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement about the suppression of workers' basic rights in Guatemala. Although the case was accepted in 2009 and advanced to the dispute resolution phase in 2011, the government of Guatemala's "continuing recalcitrance to support and defend workers’ rights to free association, collective bargaining and even the simple right to be paid for work performed is shameful, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today in a statement.
Even worse is the ongoing violent repression of workers brave enough to fight back against the system that has apparently abandoned them. It is time for the U.S. government to act to protect workers’ lives and livelihoods—it must proceed to arbitration immediately. Guatemalan working families already have waited too long for their day in court.
Guatemala has been considered the second most dangerous country for trade unionists, behind only Colombia. At the beginning of this year, after the seventh member of the banana workers' union was murdered in Guatemala, the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP) termed the murders “the slow moving massacre of the largest private-sector union in Guatemala.”