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End AFL-CIO Support for U.S. Foreign Policy

by staff |
June 3, 2005
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In addition to the internal debates over the future of labor, there are two struggles over foreign policies that will happen at the July convention of the AFL-CIO. One is a campaign underway to get the AFL-CIO to break its ties with the National Endowment for Democracy. A second is to end AFL-CIO support for the state of Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestine.

Funded by the State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was set up under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Its mission is “to foster corporate globalism,” and ‘free’ trade agreements. In practice, the NED works to stop revolutions in countries where the U.S. backs the rich people in power. Where pro-people governments are in power, NED works to help overthrow them.

The AFL-CIO has a long history of this kind of activity in foreign affairs. For example, in South America, a military dictatorship was set up in Chile in 1973 under CIA direction. The AFL-CIO, and especially the Teamsters, were involved in overthrowing the previous government there that the U.S. didn’t like. Thousands of Chilean trade unionists died. From involvement like this, it reached the point in the 1970s that activists started calling the union federation the ‘AFL-CIA.’

When the reform leadership under John Sweeney came to power in the AFL-CIO in 1995, unionists and others who oppose U.S. imperialism were hopeful. There were signs that the old departments that had acted against workers abroad were to be dismantled. The International Department, through its Solidarity Center, started doing positive things. For example, they supported the unionists in Colombia who were being targeted by death squads aligned with the pro-U.S. government there.

But then, in 2002, a U.S.-backed coup happened in Venezuela. Patriotic Venezuelans prevented the coup. Following these events, the news came out that the NED and the Solidarity Center had been deeply involved in supporting the efforts to overthrow that democratically elected government. Progressive trade unionists in the U.S. were shocked, and set about to stop something like that from happening again.

Resolution: Create Trust and Unity Among Workers Worldwide

This summer, the AFL-CIO is having their convention in Chicago in July. A resolution entitled, “Building unity and trust among workers worldwide” will be presented there. It was adopted in July 2004 by the California State Federation of Labor, which represents 2.5 million of the 12 million workers in the AFL-CIO.

This resolution is about building solidarity with labor movements in other countries. It calls for:

    * Clearing the Air about AFL-CIO involvement in events like the coups in Chile and Venezuela.
    * Detailing involvement in other countries around the world.
    * Ending funding from the U.S. government, particularly the NED, for the Federation’s activities in other countries.
    * Solidarity Center should be funded by union dues, led by union members and members should be informed of its activities.

The Latin American Solidarity Committee is organizing support for this resolution among trade unionists and people who support the struggles of workers here and worldwide. Their statement reads, “Organizing the unorganized, protecting workers’ rights, and building workers’ unity at home and around the world: these are the top priorities for U.S. workers. We cannot afford to support the NED’s waste of taxpayer money and of union members’ energy and resources on projects that undermine workers’ unity. We have a job to do: Organize!”

A rally will be held in Chicago to support the resolution. For more information, and to sign the petition supporting the resolution, visit the Latin American Solidarity Committee website at

Labor For Palestine

Labor For Palestine is a solidarity campaign among labor activists in the U.S. It was founded by organizations including Al Awda, a group that supports the right of the refugees to return to their homes in occupied Palestine, as well as New York City Labor Against the War.

On July 23, one day before the AFL-CIO convention starts, Labor for Palestine (LFP) will hold a national educational conference in Chicago on the issue of Palestine, Labor and the AFL-CIO. They criticize the national AFL-CIO for its support of the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. In regard to Palestine, LFP is sponsoring a resolution that protests the union federation’s purchases of Israel Bonds. These have helped the Israeli government pursue its continued construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

LFP invites trade unionists and union locals to endorse and participate in this critical conference: