“In Colombia, if you claim rights as a worker, they say you are a criminal, a terrorist or a delinquent.”
Luis Adolfo Cardona, exiled Coca-Cola employee from Colombia

As a general trend, unions having been losing numbers in the States and Canada for a while. Some of this is of their own making, but part of this problem is image, and up against the corporate/big business agenda/propaganda and the corporate establishment, unions seem to be getting their PR asses kicked.

Why? Sometimes I wonder if it’s too much bureaucracy and not enough ingenuity, which means too much leadership and not enough solidarity across the countless boundaries unions cover. SFU labour historian Mark Leier has spoken about how the labour bureaucracy as early as 1900 was already creating excessive space between themselves and the rank and file, in Vancouver, for example, in his book Red Flags & Red Tape: The making of a labour bureaucracy.

An example of insufficient exposure on the part of Big Labour PR has to be the union-decimated Colombia. The mainstream press keeps suggesting how much safer Colombia is, and indeed it is for some (including business interests looking for cheap wages and long hours and tourists), but perhaps not for so many others.

In these two very brief videos—one about a lawyer from Comisión Colombiana de Jurista, Lina Paola Malagón Díaz, in temporary forced exile due to death threats for standing up for human rights—and another from Alberto Vanegas, from CUT Colombia, who offers this staggering statistic:

“More than 2,722 union members were assassinated in Colombia between 1896 and [the first part of 2009].”

And Lina Paola Malagón Díaz, a lawyer, is not only remarkably brave and intelligent, but beautiful. Not that her beauty matters, ultimately, but I offer this “beautiful” addition because it somehow only makes it even more unbelievable and absurd that these two little clips, that have been up on youtube since May 12, can only have 14 and 10 views each, respectively. 14 and 10 (and a few of them mine)! How can that be? Are there no links to the rank-and-file elsewhere in the world? That is a PR disaster, when the world needs to know what happens to these people, in Colombia and all over the world, who peacefully risk their lives for the dignity of workers, and people of all colours, religions, male and female.

I know it’s not by any stretch of the imagination a beauty contest (and someone will surely decry me, perhaps rightly, for bringing it up), but this is in some ways an information war, and any group that can give millions to political party campaigns (as Labor Unions in the US do), can surely improve their media image (granted, these millions don’t touch the somewhere between $570 million and $2 billion yearly advertising budget of McDonald’s). Either way, I beg the Labour Unions to do better at this. Labour history, at the least, is compelling and courageous, and it is the main reason—solidarity amongst the exploited—that we have decent wages and work hours in the West today.

The two clips of these courageous defenders of human rights are here. Give them a watch and understand a little more of what’s happening in Colombia, and all over.

And Vanegas:

Remember who picks your food, builds the parts for your computer, sews your clothes, makes your child’s soccer balls and on and on.

Much love and respect,



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