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January 27, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 04
 
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CAFTA: Activists from two continents seek to prevent NAFTA and WTO-like exploitation
CAFTA: Activists from two continents seek to prevent NAFTA and WTO-like exploitation
by Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid - SGN A&E Writer

Unionists and

Feminists Resist Free Trade

And Privatization in

Central America

Sponsored by Radical Women

Labor Temple January 21st


Speaking to a standing room only crowd at the Labor Temple on First Avenue last Saturday night. Speaker Salvador Duarte, former General Secretary of the National Union of Transport Industry Workers and co-founder of the Workers and Peasants School in El Salvador, was one of three speakers brought by Radical Women to do a forum on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which is currently being fought by students and trade unionists in El Salvador, Costa Rica and Venezuela.

Duarte gave a moving speech on hardships faced by farmers and peasant workers as U.S. backed corporations seek to impose the Free Trade Agreement on the area. He gave a brief history of how U.S. involvement in South America since the '50's has continually weakened worker led movements and led to dictatorships and even deaths in El Salvador.

Following his speech, Marina Preza, co-founder of Radical Women Cuzcatlecas and co-leader of the Women's Commission of the Workers of the Salvadoran Trade Union Council, gave the audience more to think about. She spoke from first hand experience about governments, propped up by money from corporations in the U.S., have destroyed not only the economy of small communities in South America, but how it has effected the environment as well.

"There have been more demonstrations over this situation, but they have been brutally repressed, sometimes causing death (to these demonstrators)," she said. Both she and Duarte urged those who were interested in helping the movement in South America to call for a 'general strike' of workers, an idea which was met with audience cheers, and with a member from a local Seattle union offering whatever help he could bring forth in solidarity with these workers.

The third speaker, Patricia Ramos, who is also running as a candidate in Costa Rica under the labor union movement there and who is also a labor lawyer with the Union of Employees at the University of Costa Rica, also urged those present to join in a global, 'general strike,' forcing the multinational corporations to deal with workers in South America. She spoke passionately on how these trade practices, which often operate under the public, media radar, hurt women workers the most.

"It's well known that women traditionally, around the world, have made less than men workers, and, in these countries, they are even more challenged... They are often surveilled by those who work for U.S. companies... so that when they try to organize, ...they [are] fired by the end of the work day. One company simply left the area, without paying anyone and those workers are still trying to get their compensation for their work, but, to date, that hasn't happened," she said, pointing to one of many instances where branch factories of global corporations have cheated workers in poor villages in Costa Rica and other South American countries.

"This is the time for action, the time for debating this issue is over," she continued.

By the end of the program, audience members were on their feet, giving the speakers a standing ovation and those in various local activist groups were networking, through translators, in an effort to help in what ways they could.

If you missed this event, there will be a coffeehouse at New Freeway Hall, on stopping the Iraq war on February 4th, as well as a showing of the film, "A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde', on February 16th, at 7:30 p.m, also at New Freeway Hall (located at 5018 Rainier Avenue, South). There will also be a rally and award delivery against Wal-Mart on January 29th, at the Renton store from 4-5 p.m. (the store is located at 743 Rainier Ave., S. in Renton).

For more information on these events and to find out about childcare and possible ride-shares, call 206-722-6057.

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