USLEAP Releases Report on Worker Rights Under New Guatemalan Government

USLEAP released a full report on its conclusions from a fact-finding mission to Guatemala in July. The report details the status of worker rights under the new government of Alvaro Colom. Initial expectations that the change of government would open a new era for the ability of workers to exercise their basic rights are fading fast, seven months after the new administration took office in January 2008, according to Guatemalan labor union leaders.   A notable rise in violence against trade unionists has been accompanied by near total impunity as well as the government’s failure to address wide-spread worker rights violations.   Most concerning for U.S. policy makers and worker rights supporters, according to the report, the mission found strong evidence that U.S. policy and leverage for supporting worker rights in Guatemala has weakened significantly with the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Here are two paragraphs from the executive summary

Initial expectations that the Guatemalan government of President Alvaro Colom
would open a new era for the ability of workers to exercise their basic rights are fading
fast, six months after the new administration took office in January 2008.
A notable rise in violence against trade unionists has been accompanied by near
total impunity as well as the government’s failure to address wide-spread worker
rights violations, including illegal firings, obstacles to approving the legal recognition
of unions, dysfunctional tribunals, and the absence of effective enforcement
mechanisms for existing labor laws. Most concerning for U.S. policy makers and
worker rights supporters, the USLEAP mission also found strong evidence that U.S.
policy and leverage for supporting worker rights in Guatemala has weakened significantly
with the passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

And two more from the report:

During the contentious debate on the Central America Free Trade Agreement
(CAFTA), worker rights advocates expressed strong concern that U.S. trade leverage
to support worker rights in the region would be weakened with the passage
of CAFTA on the grounds that weak protections under the labor chapter of CAFTA
would replace stronger protections provided under the Generalized System of Preferences
(GSP). The track record on U.S. leverage in support of worker rights in
Guatemala since implementation of CAFTA in July 2006 bears out the concerns of
critics.

Since implementation of CAFTA in Guatemala, there has been a deterioration in
the worker rights situation in Guatemala, with a sharp rise in violence against trade
unionists accompanied by near-total impunity. Union leaders also describe a host
of other worker rights violations. There is no indication that U.S. trade leverage under
CAFTA has been effective in addressing any significant worker rights concerns,
with U.S. government officials in Guatemala and Washington unable to identify effective
responses to the increased violations or specific advances for worker rights
that could be linked to pressure provided under the CAFTA labor chapter.

Download and read the entire report here.

2 Responses

  1. […] USLEAP Releases Report on Worker Rights Under New Guatemalan …USLEAP released a full report on its conclusions from a fact-finding mission to Guatemala in July. The report details the status of worker rights under the new government of Alvaro Colom. Initial expectations that the change of … […]

  2. […] USLEAP Releases Report on Worker Rights Under New Guatemalan …USLEAP released a full report on its conclusions from a fact-finding mission to Guatemala in July. The report details the status of worker rights under the new government of Alvaro Colom. Initial expectations that the change of … […]

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