Ex-workers and their supporters aim to pressure GM to negotiate with employees injured at auto plant in Colombia
GENERAL MOTORS CONTINUES TO REJECT DEMANDS OF A FORMER EMPLOYEES–
INCLUDING ONE IN THE THIRD MONTH OF HIS THIRD HUNGER STRIKE — TO NEGOTIATE
THE DEMANDS OF WORKERS FIRED AFTER BEING INJURED AT A GM-OWNED PLANT
AMBIENT CHANTING â€œWE ARE ASOTRECOLâ€
LAST WEEK IN DETROIT, SUPPORTERS DELIVERED A PETITION WITH 76,000
SIGNATURES TO GENERAL MOTORS HEADQUARTERS AND PROTESTED AT AN AUTO
SHOW, ALL TO HELP RAISE AWARENESS OF THE PLIGHT OF ASOTRECOL, THE
GROUP REPRESENTING INJURED WORKERS, WHO WERE FIRED FROM GM’S
COLMOTORES PLANT IN COLOMBIA. MELVIN THOMPSON, AN ACTIVE DETROIT
AUTOWORKER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UAW LOCAL 140 LEAD THE ACTION.
(CLIP OF MIC CHECK)
THOMPSON, WHO HAS LAUNCHED HIS SECOND FAST IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE
HUNGER-STRIKING COLOMBIAN AUTO-WORKERS WAS AMONG SEVERAL ACTIVISTS
BRIEFLY DETAINED BY AUTHORITIES.
(CLIP OF MELVIN, OTHERS BEING DETAINED)
IN MAY 2011, 68 WORKERS WHO SAID THEY WERE FIRED AFTER BEING INJURED
ON THE JOB FORMED ASOTRECOL AND LAID OUT THEIR DEMANDS OF GM, WHICH
INCLUDE RE-TRAINING AND NEW JOBS IN THE PLANT, DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR
THOSE UNABLE TO WORK AND COMPENSATION FOR LOST WAGES FOLLOWING THEIR
WRONGFUL DISMISSAL. ON AUGUST 1ST OF THAT YEAR, THEY BEGAN OCCUPYING
THE SIDEWALK ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE U.S. EMBASSY IN BOGOTA TO
DIRECT THE US, WHICH HOLDS 26% OF GM SHARES TO DELIVER JUSTICE. A YEAR LATER AFTER A LACK OF RESPONSE FROM GM,
ASOTRECOL ESCALATED THEIR PROTESTS AND LAUNCHED A HUNGER-STRIKE BY
SEWING THEIR LIPS SHUT
GM AGREED TO MEDIATION FOR 11 OF THE ORIGINAL 68 WORKERS, BUT TALKS ENDED INCONCLUSIVLY AUGUST 31ST,
THATâ€™S WHY JORGE PARRA, THE PRESIDENT OF ASOTRECOL, TRAVELED TO
DETROIT, AND DECIDED TO LAUNCH HIS SECOND HUNGER-STRIKE ON SEPTEMBER 3.
DESPITE THE NOW HIS 3RD 70 DAY HUNGER-STRIKE, GM SPOKESPERSON KATIE MCBRIDE SAYS THE COMPANY WONâ€™T NEGOTIATE FURTHER BECAUSE THE WORKERS
REJECTED THEIR FINAL OFFER AT THE TIME OF MEDIATION.
CLIP: â€œâ€œWeâ€™ve offered $150,000 in programs for the workers, and their
families and about 15 months of their average monthly salaries, about
15 months of healthcare and pension benefits and two years of higher
education. Our offers were very generous, so Iâ€™m not sure where heâ€™s
coming from. From our perspective it was a very generous series of
BUT JORGE PARRA SAYS THEY REJECTED THE OFFER BECAUSE ITS INSUFFICIENT
TO COVER THEIR MEDICAL EXPENSES, INCLUDING HIS OWN.
“With that amount of money I won’t be able to have my surgery, its not
enough. Its not only the surgery its therapy.And supporting my family.
Also whatâ€™s most critical is that my surgeon told me I could end up in
MCBRIDE STRONGLY DEFENDED THE COMPANYâ€™S HANDLING OF THE
“From our perspective, we have done due diligence. We made a series of
good faith to respond to the groupâ€™s concerns. We visited the plant to
validate healthy working conditions, we helped select the third party
mediator, we have offered the group training, funding and other
resources so they can return to productive work again and care for
their families. And despite these active steps to address their
concerns, some of them continue to make demands outside the legal and
mediation process, and we canâ€™t do that. ”
BUT PARRA AND HIS SUPPORTERS DOUBT JUSTICE CAN BE ACHIEVED THROUGH THE
COLOMBIAN LEGAL SYSTEM; TRADE UNIONISTS ARE MURDERED WITH IMPUNITY. IN 2012, AT LEAST 29 TRADE UNIONISTS WERE MURDERED. PARRA SAYS THE CAMPAIGN OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IS NEEDED TO FORCE GM
BACK TO NEGOTIATING TABLE.
â€œWe have demonstrated the corruption of the legal system in Colombiaâ€
Where unfortunately, as I was mentioning, that doesnâ€™t exist.
What we have shown General Motors, and with the strike in front of the embassy.
It was simply a different type of struggle they were not expecting.
Which is to show to the people, to society, what they were doing.
Its not for the judges, or to our government, both of which are
controlled by Moneyâ€
DESPITE CONCERNS FOR HIS FAILING HEALTH, PARRA HAS VOWED TO CONTINUE
THE HUNGER-STRIKE UNTIL GM NEGOTIATES A JUST SETTLEMENT.
REPORTING FOR THE REAL NEWS, THIS IS JAISAL NOOR IN DETROIT.