GM Agrees to Mediate, Ending Colombian Hunger Strike

The three-week-old hunger strike of injured GM workers in Colombia was suspended August 22 when workers and company signed an agreement in Bogotá on a framework for mediation to resolve their conflict.

The Association of Sick and Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of General Motors Colmotores (ASOTRECOL) had built an impressive solidarity campaign with protests around the U.S. this month and an international day of action planned for last Friday. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, representatives from GM headquarters and the United Auto Workers traveled to Colombia to broker an agreement.

ColombiaHungerStrikeBSupporters marched outside GM headquarters in downtown Detroit to urge the company to meet with injured Colombian workers. A framework for mediation was settled on August 22. Photo: Jim West.

Unusually, the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was chosen as the neutral third party to conduct the process in Colombia. Mediation is expected to get underway Tuesday, August 28.

While suspending the hunger strike and the protests targeting GM, workers asked supporters to remain vigilant. North American groups circulated a pledge of resistance, committing to get back in the streets if mediation breaks down. ASOTRECOL was clear that international solidarity is what brought GM to the table and will still be needed to keep the company there and reach a just settlement.

Workers managed to win the agreement despite the physical stress of three weeks on hunger strike, compounded by the cutoff of electricity to their encampment outside the U.S. embassy in Bogotá last Friday. This act of harassment was evidently instigated by the embassy, as evidenced by amateur video and local reports; the embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

Without electricity workers’ communication with their allies was impeded. They were left in the dark at a time when they had been menaced by a passerby tossing gasoline on one of their tents, and the two diabetics among them had difficulty with safe storage of medication requiring refrigeration.