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Martin Sheen Supports Colombian GM Workers

by Witness for Peace
Contact: U.S./English speaking contact: Jess Hunter-Bowman, 202-547-6112,
ASOTRECOL contact: Jorge Alberto Parra Andrade--contact for details

Press Release
August 24, 2012   

Washington, DC – In the wake of yesterday’s announcement that ASOTRECOL and General Motors agreed to a framework for settlement of the workers’ claims of illegal firings, Martin Sheen joined rights groups in calling for swift negotiations that meet the workers’ demands.

As part of the agreement, ASOTRECOL suspended their three-week hunger strike and many international protests against GM scheduled for today were temporarily suspended, pending the outcome of the new process under the auspices of the United States Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

“We ended our hunger strike after 22 days,” said Manuel Ospina, one of the striking GM workers. “But our strike continues today, our 389th day camped out in tents across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, as we await the start of mediation.”

“We have faith that we can solve this dispute once and for all and put this terrible situation behind us,” added Mr. Ospina.

A growing group of concerned supporters across the globe is following developments in this labor rights case. Today Martin Sheen, an actor made famous by his leading roles on TV and the big screen including The West Wing, Apocalypse Now, The Departed, and The Amazing Spider-Man, announced his support for these current and former GM workers.

“I believe in workers’ rights, both here at home and abroad,” said Mr. Sheen. “That is why I am standing in solidarity with Colombian GM workers on strike. My prayers are with both the workers and GM as they begin negotiating a solution that is just and fair for workers who were injured on the job.”

The group of GM workers that formed ASOTRECOL went on strike after being fired from GM due to workplace injuries. Their disabling injuries left them unemployable and unable to support their families. GM has refused to compensate them for these disabilities or provide them with access to medical care. On August 1st, they began a hunger strike that was suspended when this framework agreement was announced.

Rights groups across the United States announced the temporary suspension of protests against GM while negotiations are ongoing. These groups indicate they have compiled a growing list of individuals and groups that have committed to protest, including nonviolent civil disobedience, if GM walks away from the negotiations before a settlement the workers can accept has been reached.

“We welcome this long overdue first step on the long road to a just settlement for these injured GM workers,” said Sharon Hostetler, Executive Director of Witness for Peace. “In recognition of this progress, Witness for Peace has called for a temporary suspension of today’s planned protests around the country targeting GM. We will closely monitor the developments and issue a new call to action if necessary, but our fervent hope is that the mediation brings a swift resolution for ASOTRECOL’s striking workers.”

The workers reiterated their hope that people in the United States remain vigilant. “We ask people in the U.S. and around the world to stay on alert,” said Mr. Ospina. “If we do not reach an agreement, we will return to the actions we were taking before the mediation began and we hope others would do the same.”