Supporters of fired Colombian workers confront GM

Protest in Detroit at General Motors shareholders’ meeting in solidarity with Colombian GM workers.Photo: Frank Hammer

Protest in Detroit at General Motors shareholders’ meeting in solidarity with Colombian GM workers.
Photo: Frank Hammer

Detroit — For nearly two years members of Asotrecol — the Association of Injured Workers and Ex-workers of General Motors Colmotores — have been living in tents outside the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia. They are still demanding justice for workers who were fired after they were injured on the job in GM’s Colombian plant. After they were fired, GM denied that their injuries were work-related, making them ineligible for workers’ compensation.

From September 2012 until March of this year, Asotrecol President Jorge Parra resided in Detroit, trying in vain to meet with GM executives to resolve the situation. When he returned to Colombia, his many supporters here vowed to continue to work in solidarity with Asotrecol.

On June 6, a group of activists, most of them rank-and-file union members, demonstrated outside GM world headquarters here during GM’s annual shareholder meeting. Huge letters on poster board spelled out a message that could not be clearer: “GM: workers are not disposable.” The protest received many honks of support and widespread media coverage.

Asotrecol sent the following message to the protest:

“Dear Compañeros,

“It is a great great joy for us to know that we can count on your help and support, to know that even though our countries are separated by far distances, we are united by the same needs and the same dreams of a world that is more just.

“We want to let you know that we have been camped in front of the U.S. Embassy for 674 days, 22 months now, in a permanent occupation that has involved many tough days, as you can understand, with many dreams and hopes. Our fellow workers currently inside GM Colmotores enjoy great benefits from what we have been able to achieve together, and your role from the U.S. has been key in this struggle.

“GM in Colombia has begun to make big changes that would be impossible to imagine if not for our struggle based on our humble but firm conviction of enforcing our rights. Today we are hopeful that the U.S. Embassy in Colombia will fulfill the commitment it has made to intervene very soon.

“Today more than ever, we beseech you brothers and sisters, fellow workers in the U.S., to help us maintain the pressure through all these beautiful protests and expressions of support, like today’s, that are ultimately our only weapon of pressure and justice in getting GM to do right.

“Compañeros, beyond that, we wish to express, in our name and in that of our families, our deepest thanks and infinite admiration for your solidarity and the affection that you have always shown us. God Bless you all, brothers and sisters.

“Fraternally, Asotrecol — SOLIDARITY HAS NO BORDERS.”