For almost 500 days, Asotrecol, the Association of Injured Workers and
Ex-Workers of General Motors Colmotores, has been fighting for justice.
Colmotores, the GM assembly plant in Bogotá, Colombia, is a house of
Colombian Labor Union members of
Association of Injured Workers and
Ex-workers of General Motors
Colmotores – Asotrecol have sewn
their lips shut in a hunger strike.
GM fired workers who suffered
workrelated injuries, cutting off
their source of income and medical
care. Shown here a member of the strike in August.
After any length of time, conditions on the job destroy a worker physically.
GM typically fires workers unable to work, leaving them with no source of
income. GM takes advantage of the political climate in Colombia, the most
dangerous country in the world for trade unionists.
Asotrecol took action on Aug. 1, 2011, setting up an encampment outside the
U.S. Embassy. Workers targeted the U.S. government because of its 26 percent
ownership in the company and its role in bailing out GM.
One year later, Colmotores still refused to meet with workers to discuss
their demands, including reintegrating them into the workforce on jobs they
could do with their disability or providing a pension for those unable to work.
The 13 Asotrecol members still occupying the embassy, including its president,
Jorge Parra, began a hunger strike, sewing their lips shut.
Twice they suspended the hunger strike. The first time was after GM
executives in Detroit agreed to participate in mediation, supervised by the
U.S. Federal Mediation Service and with the intervention of the United Auto
Workers. But Asotrecol found their offer of compensation
“insulting” and resumed the hunger strike.
Parra came to Detroit to seek a meeting with GM. He and the Asotrecol
members in Bogotá resumed eating after UAW President Bob King expressed
hope that he could work out a settlement with GM.
On Nov. 17, after leaving a meeting with King empty-handed, Parra announced
that he would sew his lips shut again. Three days later, he made good on his
promise. Three of the occupiers in Colombia have also sewn their lips shut.
In a Nov. 21 statement, Parra made it clear that “because of the
multiple occasions that we have suspended the hunger strike without achieving a
resolution, we will not lift the hunger strike until there is a final and just
resolution to our demands.” He said, “Due to the multiple times
that General Motors Colmotores has dismissed the validity of our claims and
attacked our motives, we demand that this situation be resolved directly with
the parent company, General Motors, not with Colmotores, nor in
When they have a chance to hear Parra speak, rank-and-file autoworkers in
Detroit feel a sense of solidarity with the Colombian workers. Melvin Thompson,
a member and former president of UAW Local 140 at the Chrysler Warren Truck
Assembly Plant, began his own hunger strike on Nov. 20 and is vowing to consume
only liquids until Asotrecol wins justice.
On Nov. 28, Parra, Thompson and several dozen supporters picketed and
rallied outside GM world headquarters in Detroit. That day, U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton was presenting the State Department’s Award
for Corporate Excellence. GM, one of 11 finalists out of 82 contenders, lost to
GM was nominated for supposedly advancing human rights in Uzbekistan. In
fact, international labor activists have criticized working conditions in
GM’s plant there, and GM has refused to allow the International Labor
Organization to conduct an inspection.
Parra challenged GM CEO Dan Akerson to an “unfiltered public
debate.” In a moving speech, Parra reminded supporters that “bodies
may die but the working-class struggle will never die.” In recent weeks,
he has supported the class struggle by attending protests at Walmart and
demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine. He also joined actions supporting
Jerome Jackson, who is disabled, and facing eviction from his
Activists will continue to demonstrate outside GM headquarters, dealerships
and other locations to hold the company accountable for its crimes against
ASOTRECOL video statement recorded before sewing lips shut