AP News released a story today that the Labor Department had been blocking the release of a study “critical of working conditions in Central America.” No irony lost here that this comes out as the Senate prepares to cast the vote on CAFTA as early as tomorrow.
The Senate Finance Committee gave CAFTA a narrow nudge to the Senate floor today, but not without protest from those on the committee opposed to CAFTA.
The Labor Department worked for more than a year to maintain secrecy for studies that were critical of working conditions in Central America, the region the Bush administration wants in a new trade pact.
The contractor hired by the department in 2002 to conduct the studies has become a major opponent of the administration’s proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.
The government-paid studies concluded that countries proposed for free-trade status have poor working environments and fail to protect workers’ rights. The department dismissed the conclusions as inaccurate and biased, according to government and contractor documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
At least one member of the Senate Finance Committee offered an amendment to CAFTA in recent weeks that would have put some protections for labor into the bill. CAFTA is deeply flawed and the evidence that has now surfaced pointing to a cover-up by the Labor Department could be too late to stop this disaster in the making. There are ends to the lengths the Bush administration goes to in their cover-up plots:
Behind the scenes, the Labor Department began as early as spring 2004 to block public release of the country-by-country reports.
The department instructed its contractor to remove the reports from its Web site, ordered it to retrieve paper copies before they became public, banned release of new information from the reports, and even told the contractor it could not discuss the studies with outsiders.
The department has now worked out a deal with the contractor to make the reports public, provided there is no mention of the federal agency or government funding.
At the same time, the administration began a pre-emptive campaign to undercut the study’s conclusions.
Used as talking points by trade-pact supporters, a Labor Department document accuses the contractor of writing a report filled with “unsubstantiated” statements and “biased attacks, not the facts.”
One lawmaker (Sen. Byron Dorgan) said he was shocked that a federal agency charged with protecting the rights of Americans workers would go to such lengths to block the public from seeing its own contractor’s concerns before Congress votes on the agreement.
Previously posted on LightUpTheDarkness.org