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GM Accused of Ignoring Unsafe Factories in Foreign Countries
http://michiganradio.org/post/gm-accused-ignoring-unsafe-factories-foreign-countries
By Steve Carmody

General Motors is being accused of not caring about the working conditions in its plants in Columbia and India.
mi radio photo
Protesters accuse GM executives of ignoring unsafe working conditions in factories in Columbia and India
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About two dozen protesters plan to hound GM CEO Mary Barra at events tied to this week’s auto technology conference in Detroit.

Paige Shell-Spurling is organizing the protests. She says GM is ignoring problems with unsafe factories that have left dozens of workers seriously injured.

“We’re seeing this as an epidemic of injuries that GM doesn’t want to recognize. They are not doing anything about it,” says Shell-Spurling. “They’re workers who were injured on the job. Fired for their injuries and they’ve just been kicked to the curb.”
well vetted
GM CEO Mary Barra says the allegations have been “well-vetted.”
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

GM CEO Mary Barra declined to comment on the foreign auto workers complaints, except to say their complaints have been reviewed by local authorities in Columbia and India and have been “well-vetted.”

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014

Protestors angry about GM’s epidemic of injured workers to demonstrate at Auto World Congress with canes and crutches
 
WHAT: Informational Picket Line and Rally
WHEN: 4-5:30 PM Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014
WHERE: COBO Center, 1 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI
WHO: Asotrecol Solidarity Network and supporting organizations: Autoworker Caravan, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Moratorium Now, National Action Network, Detroit, Alliance for Global Justice, Colombia Support Network, and others.
Detroit, Michigan – When GM CEO Mary Barra steps up to the podium at the so-called “Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress” on Sunday, Sept. 7, her concentration may be disrupted by the sight of protesters outside Cobo Center hobbling with crutches and canes, denouncing GM for its epidemic of injured workers in countries like Colombia and India.
Protestors, angry over GM’s treatment of a group of injured workers who were illegally fired by GM managers at an assembly plant near Bogota, say Barra has done nothing to address the issue.  Despite Barra’s directive to GM employees back in June to contact her directly regarding unsolved quality and safety issues, she has ignored the letters and emails she’s received from workers in Colombia and now India regarding hazardous working conditions at their locations that have permanently disabled thousands of auto workers.
“Turning a deaf ear to the workers’ concerns, as Mary Barra is doing,” says Frank Hammer, retired GM worker, “is reminiscent of ‘Old’ GM’s handling of ignition switch failures which resulted in over a hundred deaths and many more injuries.  Management failed to protect buyers of GM products, and is failing to protect workers.”
While GM claims it “provides the best working conditions” and “follows world class practices across the globe,” the facts tell a different story.  According to Nihil Mehta, secretary of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, “269 cases of workers suffering spinal injuries have been documented,” at GM’s Halol plant in Gujarat, India – site of labor strikes in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Mehta’s letter informed Barra of these and other pressing issues, including the conversion of half the workforce into temporary workers who make 47 cents/hour, the company’s refusal to collectively bargain with his union, and managers demanding a 20% increase in daily production.
“These deplorable conditions,” according to Paige Shell Spurling, an organizer of Sunday’s protest, “mirror what’s been going on at GM’s assembly plant in Colombia, reputed to be the most profitable in all of Latin America. It’s all part of a pattern – profits over buyers’ safety in the case of the fatal ignition switches, and profits over workplace safety.”
68 workers among hundreds if not thousands who GM illegally fired in Colombia after their injuries interfered with their work, decided to fight for their rights by forming the association ASOTRECOL and setting up a tent encampment at the US Embassy.  Those that remain after 3 hard years of protest last week reinitiated a hunger strike, with two of the workers stitching their lips shut.  To visually represent their reality, after being injured on-the-job and discarded by GM, one worker buried himself in the ground up to his neck.  Among their supporters are UAW members in the U.S. who have donated over $10,000 to keep the Colombian struggle going; numerous community, faith, and human rights organizations in the U.S. and Great Britain; Colombian unions and federations; and now the Gujarat Kamdar Mandal union at GM Halol in India.
According to one of Colombia’s major daily papers, El Tiempo, a recent decision by Colombia’s Constitutional Court in favor of another.  GM worker supports ASOTRECOL’s claims.  In a rare ruling against a U.S. transnational corporation, the court ordered GM to reinstate Eduardo Mendez Polania, who was also fired after suffering injuries on the job.
“These workers have been greatly mistreated by GM,” says Minister Jerrold Foltz, whose Virginia congregation, Wellspring UCC, has supported the injured workers for over two years. “It’s unconscionable that GM wouldn’t provide better for its employees.”
That’s the message the protestors intend to deliver on Sunday, complete with crutches and canes.  This is one of many actions planned to demand that GM reach a settlement with its injured Colombian workers and cease its “business as usual” attitude towards the health and safety of its workforce.

 

AUGUST 2014

August 26, 2014: ASOTRECOL begins a hunger strike which they are determined to continue until their situation is resolved by GM. Along with the hunger strike, they began a series of burials, to make their desperation visible. Having been dismissed illegally by GM, without compensation, and having no luck finding employment in a country where businesses routinely screen their applicants for medical conditions such as theirs, the injured workers’ life savings have run dry and many are facing the foreclosures of their homes.

August 5, 2014: the leadership of the industrial union, SINTRAIME, emailed an appeal to GM CEO Mary Barra in support of the injured workers’ association, ASOTRECOL. The appeal was also critical of hiring procedures at the Colmotores plant which are in violation of the US-Colombia “Labor Action Plan.”

 

JUNE 2014

June 9 and 10, 2014: RALLIES AT GENERAL MOTORS GLOBAL HEADQUARTERS TARGET SHAREHOLDERS MEETING: GM Recall Survivors, ASOTRECOL Solidarity Network call on shareholders to hold GM execs accountable. GM Recall Survivors, plus supporters of injured autoworkers who lost their jobs at the GM plant in Colombia, held a joint press conference and rally outside GM headquarters in Detroit on June 9, one day in advance of the annual GM shareholders meeting. A second rally was held on June 10, the day the shareholders met. Coordinated protest actions also took place at nearly a dozen GM dealerships in towns across the nation the same week. Read the full press release. Geographically speaking, this was the solidarity network’s most extensive effort to date, and we hope to keep building in more cities and towns around the country.

ASOTRECOL supporters and GM Recall Survivors outside GM headquarters in Detroit, June 9, 2014

 

APRIL 2014

April 22, 2014: Labor and Student Groups at the University of Michigan Protest GM CEO’s Upcoming Speech at Commencement: “Barra and her company have done enormous harm to people and the environment. Although Barra is now being depicted as some sort of feminist, it is in fact women who have been the most negatively affected by her and her company—after all, it is women who tend to bear the heaviest burdens when family members lose their jobs, when the banks foreclose on struggling households, when the environment is poisoned, and when people are killed in preventable car accidents….The Graduate Employees Organization and the Student Union of Michigan at the University of Michigan call upon the administration to rescind Mary Barra’s speaking invitation and honorary doctorate, and to replace Barra with someone who has instead made a positive contribution to women’s rights and human welfare”.

 

MARCH 2014

March 21, 2014: “Dear Ms. Mary Barra, I am writing on behalf of Parliamentary Friends of Colombia, a parliamentary group made of over 80 MPs [Members of Parliament] in the United Kingdom Parliament, to express our deep concern for the plight of eight former employees at the General Motors assembly plant in Bogotá, Colombia…As you will be aware GM operates in the UK and we do as such have a special interest in ensuring that GM is treating its workers fairly wherever it may operate….I look forward to hearing from you about the case and regarding any actions you have taken to address the demands of ASOTRECOL.” Click here to read the full letter from British MP Robert Flello, Vice Chair of Parliamentary Friends of Colombia, to GM CEO Mary Barra.

March 15, 2014: Join us at the Rochester, MI home of GM’s Vice President of Labor Relations, Jim Glynn, to make sure that he, his family, his neighbors, and everyone else know about the suffering of the injured workers and their families. Read the press release here.

March 5, 2014: Read the latest press release, chronicling the Colombian labor ministry’s collaboration with General Motors in violations of workers’ rights: “Colombian Labor Ministry’s Misdeeds in GM Case Highlight Failure of ‘Labor Protections’ in U.S.-Colombia Free-Trade Agreement.”

O, léalo aquí en español: Maniobras del MinTrabajo colombiano con GM Colmotores indican fracaso del “Plan de Acción Laboral”

 

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FEBRUARY 2014

February 27, 2014: Manuel was taken in an ambulance to the hospital today. The injured workers on hunger strike are declining and if General Motors does not settle soon, the company will be responsible for the death of these workers, who, after trying all possible routes to resolve the situation the company left them in, have no option but to put their lives on the line for what is right.

February 27, 2014: Ad appears in Michigan Citizen newspaper. See the ad here.

The injured Colombian General Motors workers started a hunger strike on February 11th, which they continue to this day. Below are photos from this hunger strike.

The workers began the hunger strike on February 11th in honor of the day when General Motors finally recognized the UAW union in the United States, in 1937 after the workers occupied 4 plants in Flint, Michigan, for 44 days. The reasons that the U.S. workers organized then and that the injured Colombian workers are organizing now, are the same: unsafe work conditions, precarious work, speed-up, job displacement, and anti-union policies like spying, intimidation, and the criminalization of union activity.

Jorge Parra, president of the injured workers association, wrote a letter to Bob King, president of the United Autoworkers Union in the U.S. asking for his support prior to beginning the hunger strike. Bob King has not responded. Read the letter here.

Justice for Colombia, an organization based out of London, England which works with unions throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland as well as with Members of Parliament, began supporting the injured workers in their quest for justice.
JFC agradecimiento

The injured workers received material support- food for their families- from the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) national Colombian labor federation and from the union SINTRAIME inside the General Motors Colmotores plant. Below is the solidarity statement from the CUT.

CUT letter of solidarity

Sunday, February 16, 2014, the pick-up truck belonging to ASOTRECOL President Jorge Parra was stolen from outside his home, along with a camera and laptop computer containing sensitive personal information that has now put the workers’ families at greater risk. The pick-up truck was old and in very poor condition, leading the workers to conclude that the theft was politically motivated. Members of ASOTRECOL have received death threats, been followed, and been spied on as a result of the denouncements they have made against General Motors.

The documentary about the struggle, produced by VENISPA (www.venispa.com) became available online with English subtitles!

 

Injured GM Workers to Launch Hunger Strike on February 11th: Read the press release announcing the hunger strike that began on Tuesday, February 11th.

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JANUARY 2014

An anonymous donor has offered to match the amount that we raise in new recurring donations up to $500. That means that if you set up an automatic donation on the sidebar or fundraising page of this website, he will bump up his monthly contribution by the amount that you pledge. THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR ANYONE WHO FEELS ECONOMICALLY LIMITED TO DOUBLE THEIR IMPACT! We are very grateful for the support. Our struggle would not be possible without the support that we have received. Thank you for understanding that we are all investing– whether through time, effort, or funds– in a better world.

The injured Colombian GM workers and their struggle were remembered in Detroit by those honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The shared difficulties being faced by autoworkers in the U.S. and in Colombia were illustrated in a hand painted banner that shows the connection between autoworkers in the United States and Colombia.

Autoworker Melvin Thompson, who visited the injured workers in Colombia spoke in the cathedral about the importance of supporting this struggle. He compared the struggle of the injured Colombian GM workers to that of Nelson Mandela. The wins that Nelson Mandela was able to see would not have been possible without support from abroad and the struggle of ASOTRECOL would not be possible without international support either.

The workers passed the 900-day mark. They have been living in tents in front of the U.S. Embassy imploring the U.S. government to make General Motors, a U.S. company that was bailed out from bankruptcy with taxpayer money, to follow the law. If General Motors had complied with the law, the injured workers would never have been fired and left without compensation, and would not have had to endure a difficult struggle in which they have taken on one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world.

900 days of struggle

DETROIT, MICHIGAN: 2014 International Autoshow. Around 60 people came out to show their support for ASOTRECOL and their collective vision of improving conditions for workers in the auto sector. We support their positions: No 2-tier! YES to international solidarity! And YES, a better world IS possible! Thanks to everyone present, and thanks to the Autoworker Caravan and the other organizations that helped to organize this event.

Detroit News article about the rally in front of the 2014 Autoshow:
http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140112/AUTO04/301100119/

autoshow 2014 another world

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1 de enero de 2014
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA: ASOTRECOL DESEA UN FELIZ AÑO LLENO DE PROSPERIDAD A TODAS LAS ORGANIZACIONES Y A TODAS LAS PERSONAS A NIVEL NACIONAL Y INTERNACIONAL QUE APOYAN ESTA LUCHA PARA BUSCAR JUSTICIA PARA LAS FAMILIAS NUESTRAS. SABEMOS QUE NO ES FÁCIL PERO TAMBIÉN TENEMOS LA FE DE ENCONTRAR UNA SOLUCIÓN Y CON SU AYUDA LO LOGRAREMOS.

x mas greetings cat

January 1, 2014
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA: ASOTRECOL WISHES A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF THE ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS- COLOMBIAN AND INTERNATIONAL- THAT HAVE SUPPORTED THIS STRUGGLE IN SEARCH OF JUSTICE FOR OUR FAMILIES. WE KNOW THAT IT HAS NOT BEEN EASY BUT WE ALSO HAVE FAITH THAT WE WILL REACH A SOLUTION AND WITH YOUR HELP WE WILL GET THERE.

x mas greetings new year with carlos

x mas greetings new year

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25 de diciembre de 2013
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA: ASOTRECOL desea a todos un feliz navidad y prospero año nuevo.

x mas greetings

December 25, 2013
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA: ASOTRECOL wishes everyone happy holidays and a happy new year.

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