Tom Burke

Tom BurkeTom Burke is a labor union and Colombia solidarity activist.  Most recently Tom's work has been as a stay home dad of a five-year old daughter.  Tom grew up in the blue-collar suburbs of Chicago and received degrees from both the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana and the University of Illinois-Chicago.  He then worked as a school custodian and building engineer in the Oak Park schools for 14 years, where he won an Illinois State award for service.  Tom Burke was a union steward, union organizer, and elected to the Executive Board of Local 73, Service Employees International Union with 23,000 members.  

Tom travelled to Colombia in December 2003, hosted by the Oil Worker’s Union (USO) at a time when pro-government death squads were murdering three Colombian trade unionists every week.  Along with other members of the Colombia Action Network, Tom helped launch the successful Boycott Coke! Campaign to shine a light on the murder of ten trade unionists at Coca-Cola and the problem of U.S. military intervention and war in Colombia.  Tom is the spokesperson for the National Committee To Free Ricardo Palmera, a Colombian revolutionary held political prisoner in solitary confinement by the U.S. government.  Tom’s outspokenness on this has angered and embarrassed the State Department and Department of Justice.  Tom helps build every year for the protest to “Close the School of the Americas” at Fort Benning, Georgia, where the U.S. trains Colombian military officers who direct death squads.   Tom also writes and edits articles for Fight Back! newspaper.
 
The FBI served Tom and his wife with subpoenas to appear in front of a Grand Jury on October 19th.  He is choosing to not participate in a process where the U.S. attorney has handpicked the 23 jurors, there is no judge, he is not allowed to have a lawyer, and the proceedings are conducted in secrecy away from the public and the press.  Tom says “There is nothing fair or right about the Grand Jury or the attempt to criminalize our political speech and right to organize solidarity.”