AFL-CIO's Secret War against Developing Country Workers

Solidarity or Sabotage?

By (author) Kim Scipes

Publication date:

23 September 2010

Length of book:

276 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9780739135013

The principles of trade unionism are based on working people acting together in solidarity with each other, to improve wages, working conditions, and life for themselves and all others. In its most developed forms, this extends not only to the worker next to you, but to working people all around the world, wherever they might be. Some of the foremost proponents of these principles in the United States since the 1880s has been the American Federation of Labor (AFL), then later the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and since their merger in 1955, the AFL-CIO.

However, unknown to many labor leaders and most union members in the U.S., the foreign policy leaders of the AFL and then the AFL-CIO, have been carrying out an international foreign policy that has worked against workers in a number of "developing countries." This has been done on their own, and in collaboration with the U.S. Government and its agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the U.S. State Department's Advisory Committee for Labor and Diplomacy.

In the post-World War II period, this foreign policy program has led to the AFL-CIO's foreign policy leadership helping to overthrow democratically elected governments—Guatemala (1954), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973); to support dictatorships in countries such as Guatemala, Brazil and Chile (after their respective military coups), as well as in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea; and to support efforts by reactionary labor leaders to help overthrow their democratically-elected leaders as in Venezuela in 2002. It has also included providing AFL-CIO support for U.S. Government policies around the world, including support for apartheid in South Africa.

This book argues that these activities—done behind the backs and without the informed knowledge of American trade unionists—acts to sabotage the very principles of trade unionism that these leaders proclaim to
This is an important new book for students of American labor's international activities and policies. Combining his own research with a vast knowledge of the secondary literature in this important but too often overlooked field, Kim Scipes has produced a unique historical and sociological synthesis. It is also a passionate brief for the need for change, transparency and democracy in American labor's foreign policy. Those who are interested in developing a truly progressive American labor movement will need to consult these pages, and wrestle with our interventionist labor history, before arriving at their own conclusions.