By Annette Plonka, Intern, USLEAP
Flower workers in Colombia are finally beginning to see some positive results from their tireless efforts toward negotiating a contract with their employers. It has been over seven years since Untraflores, an independent industry-wide organization of individual unions, began the fight for contracts, and at last they are seeing some groundbreaking victories. A recent article about the victory reported that, with the help of international pressure from USLEAP and others, the Asoflores union at the Santa Barbara flower plantation near Bogotá was granted registration in August 2007 and “recently became the only independent union in the Colombian flower sector with a contract after signing a collective bargaining agreement with C.I. Pardo Carrizosa Navas y Cia."
[Picture on the right: Lydia Lopez is the president of the Asoflores union, who recently signed the first contract to be held by an independent union in the Colombian flower industry.]
Workers at Splendor and Fragancia Flower plantations have also advanced in their struggles. Unions at both plantations are currently in negotiations and expect to sign contracts this summer. At Splendor, “Sintrasplendor workers were given a major boost in January when Rep. George Miller, D-CA, raised their case with the Ministry of Social Protection and Vice President Francisco Santos, ultimately resulting in a court order for the arbitration tribunal they had been waiting for since May 2007 … The tribunal began in mid-May,” and the timing in which the workers receive a final ruling will determine how soon Sintrasplendor will sign a contract. “Sintrasplendor could sign a contract as early as this summer.”
The progress toward the gradual transformation of the manner in which U.S. companies regard their Colombian workers can only be made possible by the collaborative efforts of workers in Colombia and activists in the U.S. who find the time to actively oppose the policies of companies that violate worker rights. Change happens when there is a joint effort involving workers like Dora Acero, from the union at the Fragancia plantation who toured the U.S. this spring to pressure Dole for a contract, and activists in the U.S. who write letters and send emails to companies like Dole, or to representatives in Congress. The voices of workers become much louder when they are joined by those of activists.