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For Immediate Release
April 4, 2008
Eric Sharfstein

Statement of UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor Regarding Clinton Strategist Mark Penn

Today, we learned the astonishing fact that the Clinton campaign’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, recently met with representatives of the Columbian Government to discuss passing the Columbia Free Trade Agreement. Further, we know that Penn’s firm, Burson-Marsteller, of which Penn is the CEO, is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby for passage of this act. That Clinton’s chief strategist would be working hand in hand with the government of Columbia and the Bush Administration while candidate Clinton says she opposes the agreement is truly incredible, even by today's crazy standards. 

Not only is the Colombia Free Trade Agreement a continuation of the Bush Administration’s failed trade policies that have benefited multinational corporations at the expense of workers and their families, but Columbia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. Since 1991, there have been more than 2,300 trade unionists murdered in Colombia. In 2007, there were 39 murdered and this year 13 have been murdered (if these trends continue more will be murdered in 2008 than in 2007). Since the Uribe government took office, more trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia than in the rest of the world combined! These deadly actions represent attempts made by employers, paramilitaries, guerillas, and the government to stop dissent, silence workers, and destroy the one way workers can take control of their livelihood - through their union. It is an outrage that the Bush administration even negotiated a trade agreement with Colombia in the first place. 

A disturbing pattern is emerging in the Clinton campaign. She seems to regularly take positions on important issues which are refuted by her own actions, or those of her top campaign staff. 

For example, Hillary said she always opposed NAFTA. But as has recently been documented, she supported NAFTA when it counted, that is, when it was being voted on. 

She claims that she supports workers’ right to organize unions but Mark Penn’s firm Burson-Marsteller is helping anti-union companies like Cintas, a highly profitable uniform and laundry supply company, deny workers their right to join a union. Many labor leaders let Clinton know they were upset with Penn’s association with an anti-union company like Cintas, but she did nothing to sever her relationship with Mark Penn. And Mark Penn did nothing to sever his relationship with Burson-Marsteller. 

Even Harold Ickes, a Clinton supporter with many friends in the labor movement, said last June that: “Mark has told us that he is taking extra steps to assure people on the outside that he does not engage with clients that may be involved in controversial issues.” 

Can we really trust Hillary’s claim that she will fight against the Colombia Free Trade Agreement? Working for the Colombian government is not only “controversial,” it is obscene and morally wrong. One wonders: which side is Hillary really on? 

Harold Ickes may want to have a talk with Mark Penn. Better still - Clinton should fire Penn. Now.



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