Despite more than five years of incredible work by people like you to advocate for fair trade policies, we are disappointed to report that the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
Although this is a frustrating outcome, we are proud of the massive grassroots opposition we created against these trade agreements. Together with people like you, just over the past six months, we sent over 13,000 emails and made hundreds of phone calls to congress, published op-eds and letters to editor in papers across the country, sent a petition with 11,695 signatures to President Obama, and grabbed local and national media attention by staging vigils in the streets of many major cities. We made new connections with environmental, labor, faith-based and human rights groups, amplifying our collective voice by tens of thousands. While LAWG staff and our partners in DC pounded the marble halls of Congress with our message, you followed up with your representatives when they came home to their districts.
And in the end, they listened to us. We convinced 82% of House Democrats to vote against this unfair trade agreement. This represents the largest percentage of House Democrats voting against a Democratic president on trade in history, and it sent a message to President Obama: no more trade without human rights.
It was your efforts that encouraged representatives and senators to stand on the floor of Congress and tell the stories of union leaders killed in Colombia, of families devastated by the conflict, of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities struggling to stay on their ancestral lands. Missed the action? Check out this powerful speech by Representative Luis Gutiérrez in which he honors the lives of two murdered Colombian activists: Alejandro José Peñata, a teacher and unionist, and Ana Fabricia Córdoba, a dynamic Afro-Colombian social leader who struggled for the rights of the displaced.
To read the inspiring speech that Representative Jim McGovern gave during the debate, click here. LAWG sends a big thank you to Rep. McGovern for his tireless efforts to oppose this agreement, as well as to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who “stopped the clock” on this FTA in 2008 and came out against it last week. Thanks also to Representatives Sandy Levin, Mike Michaud, George Miller, Hank Johnson, and John Lewis, Senators Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders, and all the other members of Congress who chose to speak out for human rights during this critical debate.
We hope you’ll do the same for your members who voted right!
In the time since the vote, we have received messages from our partners in Colombia thanking us for what we’ve done over the past five years. By delaying it so long, we pressured the Colombian government to clean up its record on human rights—and they have made some good promises. But the struggle does not end here. Now that the FTA has passed, we’ll need to make sure that both the U.S. and Colombian governments keep their word and support communities, unionists, small-scale farmers, and others whose livelihoods and safety may now be at greater risk than ever. So we hope you’ll stick with us and stay active.
Start now by sending a follow-up message to your legislators about their votes!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you’ve done. We’ll be back to you soon with more opportunities to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Colombia.