PITTSBURGH, Aug. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leo Gerard, international president for the United Steelworkers (USW) expressed strong support for the historic decision by the Obama Administration and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to protect workers' safety and voices by moving forward with arbitration against Guatemala for violating labor rights under terms of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).
Gerard said, "Workers in Guatemala have lost income, their jobs and in some cases, their lives attempting to exercise basic rights. The provisions in the trade agreement must be enforced on the right of free association by Guatemala workers to organize and bargain collectively.
"This labor case by the U.S. under an FTA is a milestone for workers in both countries. The previous administration ignored the systematic violation of these rights, so we applaud Ambassador Ron Kirk of the USTR in ensuring these rights will be respected.
"The USTR action must be followed by efforts to end the violence against unionists and denial of their rights in Mexico and Colombia – and elsewhere in the world."
The U.S. complaint is based on a petition filed by the AFL-CIO and six Guatemalan unions in 2008 under the Bush Administration. It alleged that Guatemala had a pattern of failing to enforce its labor laws related to the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively.
Under CAFTA-DR rules, the arbitration panel will consist of two panellists and a chairman. After agreeing on a chair, the panel will then have 120 days to issue its initial report. A final report would be due 30 days later and released to the public after 15 more days.
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SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)