Why Is McCain Afraid To Talk To U.S. Workers About Trade?

07/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

John McCain is going to talk about trade this week, just not in the United States, and not to U.S. workers. For some reason, McCain thinks Colombia is the best place to discuss this issue.

If McCain wants to know how the trade programs he has championed for the past twenty years in the Senate have affected workers, he doesn't need to go any further than Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. Maybe by listening to people who have lost their jobs he would finally understand that our current globalization and trade policies are at the heart of our current economic meltdown.

But the bigger question is: Why is John McCain afraid to talk to U.S. workers? Is it just one more example of his turning a blind eye or deaf ear on those who don't follow lock-step with his positions? Is he just too afraid to see and hear the results of his votes in Congress?

It is astonishing that McCain is turning a blind eye to the human rights violations occurring on a daily basis in Colombia. He has been waffling on the torture issue when it comes to Iraq, but by traveling to Colombia this week he is making it clear that he will ignore the crimes of the Uribe regime -- a regime that condones the torture and murder of trade unionists -- and stand, smiling, while workers are killed.

Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade union activist.

More union leaders have been killed in Colombia since President Uribe took office than the rest of the world combined! More than 400 since he took office in 2001. Just last week, two trade unionists were killed, one assassinated in front of his wife and daughter.

John McCain, more than anyone who has ever run for our nation's highest office, should be appalled by the Uribe government. He should stand with Colombian workers and urge Uribe to end the violence. But no, he will instead promote a trade program that will continue the race to the bottom -- a race he has been leading his entire Congressional career.

The Teamsters are not against trade -- we are for fair trade. The Bush/McCain trade model rewards multinational corporations at the expense of workers in the U.S. and Colombia. And it rewards the Colombian government for turning a blind eye to the 2,500 trade unionists who have been murdered since 1985.

This is what we want on trade. We want trade policies that mean gains in U.S. jobs and exports. We want to see increased living standards for middle-class families here and in the countries we trade with. We want a strong domestic manufacturing base, and stringent safety standards to ensure that imports are safe and not tainted.

Americans must demand better from our presidential candidates. John McCain should be ashamed of himself for traveling to Colombia and the American public and media should hold him accountable for his flawed agenda.

The trip to Colombia is just one of many missteps in the McCain campaign. Last week, McCain's chief strategist, Charlie Black said another terrorist attack on U.S. soil would do wonders for McCain. And guess where Black has a long history of business and political ties? You guessed it. Colombia.

McCain's trip sounds more like a fundraising event than a free trade discussion. And guess what? The Colombian government has hired a lobbyist named Peter Madigan, paying his firm $753,000 to promote the Colombia Free Trade Act.

This is the same guy who has contributed $25,700 to John McCain. Madigan has raised at least an additional $10,000 for McCain.

I'm interested in hearing how the so-called Straight Talk Express spins this one. It looks more like a political payoff to me.