San Francisco, South Korean labor leaders
challenge Pelosi free trade support
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Vice President Young Koo
Photos by John Han
June 11, 2007
A press conference was held Friday to challenge Speaker Nancy
Pelosi on her support for the Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement
(FTA). San Francisco labor leaders and visiting South Korean union
leader, Young Koo Heo, urged Pelosi not to support the agreement..
Standing in front of the San Francisco Federal Building, speakers
took turns to discuss "the devastating effect on working
people in Korea," as well as working people in the U.S.
Howard Wallace, Vice President of the San Francisco Labor Council,
said any trade legislation that does not take into account the
interests of workers and the environment, "is not something
worthy of support."
Vice President of the San Francisco Labor Council Howard Wallace
Representing 150 local offices in San Francisco, Wallace said,
"we are entirely in support of the sisters' and brothers'
attempt to prevent their system from being privatized, and any
legislation that would lend itself to that."
Young Koo Heo, Vice President of the Korean Confederation of
Trade Unions, said that democratic rights and free-speech have
been repressed, calling the FTA "unfair," and benefiting
corporatate interests at the expense of workers.. Heo said the
FTA would cause unemployment rates to increase in both the US
and South Korea.
Anuradha Mittal, from the Oakland Institute, criticized the FTA
for "taking away the democratic rights of people in countries
like South Korea to determine what kind of trade agreements they
Mittal described the agreement as "basically declaring a
war on the poor, not a war on poverty."
Jeff Vogt, Global Economy Specialist, AFL-CIO, said the FTA is
a model that provides little or no protection for workers' rights,
or the environment, and is bill of rights for multi-national corporations.
He said the FTA provides "strong intellectual property protections
on pharmaceuticals that tend to threaten the healthcare of Korean
working people everywhere," and that "it is not the
right model for either countries."
Labor Media's Steve Zeltzer stated Korea has a national healthcare
system. He noted that one of the effects of the FTA is that it
would force privatization of the national healthcare system of
"Do we want in the U.S. to force our healthcare system on
the people of Korea, and people of other countries, when so many
people (in the U.S.) are not covered by healthcare?" Zeltzer
Zeltzer said the FTA would allow drug companies to force Koreans
to buy high-priced drugs and prevent them from buying less expensive
generic drugs, furthering the privatization of the healthcare
system. He said South Korean workers are going to jail for striking
and companies are legally able to sue workers for striking because
of the cost of going on strike.
"We believe the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, should
be standing up for the democratic rights for the people and workers
of Korea and the people and workers of the United States,"