Campaign to Defend UNT & Chavez Gov’t Against Fraudulent ILO Complaint

The Bush administration is dead-set on getting the international labor movement to condemn the Chavez government for alleged "violations of trade union rights" in Venezuela. They also allege the newly formed independent trade union federation, the National Workers Union (UNT), is not legitimate. They claim, falsely, that it does not represent the Venezuelan labor movement.

OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS – distributed by the Open World Conference in
Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights, c/o S.F. Labor
Council, 1188 Franklin St., #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.

A sharp blow was dealt to the Venezuelan labor movement and Chavez government on April 20-22, 2005 at the 16th Congress of the ORIT, held in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. ORIT is the continental section in the Americas of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

As you may know, the Bush administration is dead-set on getting the international labor movement to condemn the Chavez government for alleged “violations of trade union rights” in Venezuela. They also allege the newly formed independent trade union federation, the National Workers Union (UNT), is not legitimate. They claim, falsely, that it does not represent the Venezuelan labor movement.

Thanks to the efforts of trade unionists around the world who endorsed the broad-based campaign of the International Liaison Committee (ILC), the attempt to condemn the Chavez government via the ILO Complaint filed jointly by the bosses´ association Fedecamaras and the scab CTV union federation did not succeed at the March 8-22, 2005 meeting of the ILO in Geneva. The Bush administration — supported, alas, by the AFL-CIO´s Solidarity Center — did not have the votes to condemn the Venezuelan government.

While the Fedecamaras/CTV complaint was not defeated, as we would have liked, it was pushed back and referred to the November 2005 session of the International Labor Bureau of the ILO. While we had not won the war, we had won an important victory. [See joint UNT-ILC Communiqué below.]

The UNT as well as the Venezuelan government thanked the ILC for its support in this effort. They realize, as we do, that the U.S. government wants to set the stage for a direct military intervention in Venezuela — and that one key piece for this is to secure a condemnation of the Venezuelan government for alleged “violations of labor rights.” This would permit Bush, the No. 1 warmaker and unionbuster in the world, to claim that Venezuela is a “rogue state” that must be removed by force.

No sooner had we won an important battle at the ILO, however, the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center regrouped and led the charge at the 16th Congress of ORIT. There, unfortunately, the Fedecamaras/CTV complaint was endorsed by a majority of the unions gathered in Brasilia.

Resolution No. 9, which was adopted by the ORIT delegates, states the following under Point 6:

“The Congress of CIOSL/ORIT reaffirms its preoccupation with the Complaint against the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela insofar as its practices violate trade union freedoms, and the Congress deplores the fact that the commitments made by said country in relation to the principles and practice of the ILO have not been met.”

We are sending you below a report by Julio Turra on this issue and the debate it provoked within the Brazilian CUT trade union federation, whose representative at the ORIT meeting, Rafael Freire, voted for the resolution supporting the Fedecamaras/CTV Complaint, in violation of the CUT’s stance opposing the Complaint.

At its recent expanded National leadership meeting on May 10-13, the CUT reaffirmed its opposition to the ILO Complaint against Venezuela and is now urging unions across the continent to do the same.

Clearly, this is a matter we have to move on quickly in the United States.

More than ever, it is urgent for trade unions locals, central labor councils, state federations and national unions to urge the national AFL-CIO leadership to drop its support for this ILO Complaint.

We also must urge the AFL-CIO to endorse the resolution adopted in June 2004 by the convention of the California Federation of Labor calling for U.S. Hands Off Venezuela. The resolution also calls upon the AFL-CIO to refuse the multi-millions of dollars given to the Solidarity Center by the State Department through the National Endowment of Democracy (NED) to impose the corporate policies of the U.S. government in attacking workers, their trade unions and the governments they defend.

At the end of July, the national AFL-CIO convention will take place in Chicago. It is important that a resolution on this question of defense of Venezuela’s sovereignty can make it to the convention floor for a vote.

Please join us in promoting this effort far and wide in the U.S. trade union movement.

In solidarity,

Alan Benjamin and Alan Benjamin
OWC Continuations Committee


(reprinted from ILC Newsletter No. 133)


The CUT Reaffirms its Support to the National Workers Union (UNT) of VenezuelaOn May 10-13 there took place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the eleventh national plenary assembly of the CUT, with 550 delegates from all over Brazil. Other than the national congress, it is the most important decision-making body of the union.

At this assembly of the CUT there was a debate on Venezuela, following the resolution adopted at the sixteenth Congress of the ORIT (the continental branch in the Americas of the ICFTU), which took place recently in Brasilia, from April 20 to April 22.

At that congress, the representative of the CUT, Rafael Freire, collaborated on and approved a resolution of support to the Complaint submitted to the ILO by Fedecamaras, the Venezuelan bosses’ organization, and the CTV. [Rafael Freire is a member of the Socialist Democracy (DS) current of the Workers Party, a current to which the Agrarian Reform Minister Miguel Rossetto also belongs. – Ed.]

The Complaint was officially registered against the Venezuelan government, but in reality it would deny Venezuelan workers the right to freely organize unions of their choice.

This vote by a CUT leader for a proposal attacking the interests of a neighboring people constituted a flagrant violation of the position adopted only a few months earlier by the highest body of the CUT, its National Executive Board, which had publicly and firmly rejected the Complaint of Fedecamaras. This break with his mandate, came at a moment when Condoleezza Rice, in her tour of Brazil and Latin America, multiplied her threats against Venezuela.

In a letter addressed to the ILC, Julio Turra, summarizes the debates and conclusions of the plenary assembly of the CUT on this subject. See the letter below. – ILC Ed.———-

LETTER FROM JULIO TURRAOn the eve of the conference of trade unionists that the ILC organizes each year during the month of June in Geneva on the occasion of the International Labor Conference of the ILO, I send you the following information, which is key to re-igniting the campaign in defense of Venezuela and the UNT against the provocations of the allies of the Bush government.

The first day of debates in the plenary assembly of the CUT, the morning of May 11, an open letter was distributed to the delegates with the title “The Place of the CUT is at the side of the workers and people of Venezuela!” It explains:

‘The CUT cannot turn its back on the workers and people of Venezuela and their organizations, which are fighting the policies of Bush! During the recent visit to Brazil by Condoleezza Rice, U.S. imperialism’s goal of isolating the Chavez government was reaffirmed, paving the way for attacks against the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people.

“The CUT must reaffirm, in its national plenary assembly, its support to the workers and peoples of Venezuela and to their government in the face of the threat of an intervention by imperialism; this requires reaffirming the CUT’s policy against supporting any and all attempts to condemn Venezuela in the international institutions for supposed attacks on union rights.

“These attacks coming from Fedecamaras and the CTV have the goal of covering up their active role, in alliance with the U.S. government, in the attempts to destabilize the Chavez government.

“The position of our representatives in the international union forums and in the ORIT must be to reject the Complaints of the Venezuelan bosses and their allies in the CTV!”

This resolution received the support of more than 50 delegates. A short resolution was then put forward by the International Relations Secretariat of the CUT to reaffirm the position of the National Executive of the CUT rejecting the Fedecamaras’ Complaint against the Venezuelan government.

Three amendments were presented, all of which were accepted unanimously (see below).

This resolution shows that the battle against Fedecamaras’ attempts to register a complaint vis-à-vis union rights in Venezuela (at the meeting of the administrative council of the ILO in November 2005) must be continued.

At the conference of the ILC on June 12, in Geneva, at which I will be present, we will certainly have the opportunity to re-launch this campaign, side by side with the comrades from the UNT, who will find an even greater echo amongst the unionists and unions throughout the world.”

signed, Julio Turra,
Member of the National Executive Committee of the United Workers Central (CUT)


EXCERPTS from the motion adopted unanimously by the plenary assembly of the CUT- Sao Paulo, May 12, 2005″Rejection of the Complaints registered by Fedecamaras and the CTV”

“The plenary assembly of the CUT declares itself for:

“The full-out rejection of any intervention on the part of the U.S. government against the inalienable sovereignty of our peoples to choose the paths that they wish to follow.

“The defense of union rights in the Venezuelan political process. (…)

“The rejection of the Complaints recently presented by Fedecamaras and the CTV to the ILO.

The CUT is following with interest the growth of the new union federation the UNT, which is regrouping a wide range of Venezuelan union traditions. The plenary assembly mandates the National Executive Committee to develop an exchange and solidarity program with this federation and all of the union sectors that express a democratic position in Venezuela.”


Background Articles

ILO COMPLAINT POSTPONEDJoint Communiqué Issued by the National Union of Workers of Venezuela (UNT) and the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC)

Geneva, Switzerland — March 23, 2005

Earlier today — Wednesday, March 23 — the Governing Body of the International Labor Organization (ILO) examined the Complaint issued by FEDECAMARAS, the employers’ association of Venezuela, that sought to condemn the Venezuelan government for alleged violations of labor rights.

The ILO Governing Body concluded it could not reach an opinion on this Complaint given that all members of the Employers’ Group (IOE) were at the same time signatories to the Complaint and members of the Committee on Trade Union Freedoms, and thus could not be both accusers and judges.

The ILO Governing Body has decided to postpone the examination of this Complaint until its session of November 2005, following the meeting of the Committee on Trade Union Freedoms that will take place at the yearly International Labor Conference of the ILO in June 2005, with a newly elected group of members.

The UNT and ILC are pleased to announce the declaration presented to the ILO’s Governing Body by the Workers’ Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), which states in part:

“The ILO Workers’ Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC) takes note of the fact that the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has responded in a timely and ample way, with all the facts in hand, to the charges leveled against it. The reply and the facts demonstrate that the FEDECAMARAS Complaint against Venezuela has no merit. …

“Therefore, given the fact that this point has been debated sufficiently, the ILO Governing Board should declare that the Complaint is groundless and does not merit the creation of a Commission of Inquiry. The Complaint, in fact, should simply be closed and filed.”

See also: Open Letter to the Workers’ Group of the International Labor Organization