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. These principles have been advanced in the United States since the 1880s by the American Federation of Labor (AFL), later the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and since their merger in 1955, the AFL-CIO. However, unknown to most union members and many labor leaders in North America, and without their knowledge and support, the foreign policy leaders of the AFL and now the AFL-CIO have been working in collaboration with the U.S. government and its agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the National Endowment for Democracy, to carry out an imperialist foreign policy that has worked against workers in a number of "developing countries" and at home, thus undercutting the very principles of international labor solidarity that they proclaim.
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 in Guatemala (1954), Brazil (1964), and Chile (1973), and to support dictatorships in these countries after their military coups. They have supported labor movements created by dictatorships in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea. Furthermore, the AFL-CIO foreign policy leadership supported efforts by reactionary labor leaders to help try to overthrow democratically elected leaders in Venezuela in 2002. Their foreign policy program 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-act to sabotage the very principles of trade unionism that these leaders proclaim to be advancing. It shows how labor activists have been fighting this sabotage, and calls for all Americans to support these efforts.
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About the Author
Kim Scipes is associate professor of sociology at Purdue University North Central.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Business Unionism, Samuel Gompers and AFL Foreign Policy 1
Chapter 2 One Hundred Years of Reaction: From Gompers to Sweeney 27
Chapter 3 War Within Labor: The Struggle to Build International Labor Solidarity 69
Chapter 4 The U.S. Government and Labor 83
Chapter 5 Conclusions, Some Ramifications, and Effects On Sociological Theory 113
About the Author 241
What People are Saying About This
The AFL-CIO's Secret War answers its own title question: 'Solidarity or Sabotage?' Kim Scipes draws together more evidence of the latter than can be found between any other two book covers. This volume is clearly written out of love for the union movement and our international working class. In focusing from various points of view on the historically concealed government funded role of AFL-CIO officialdom, carrying the bags for Corporate America abroad in pursuit of Empire, Scipes lets the cats out of the bags. This scholarly work will piss off key players in labor's hierarchy who, not wanting to 'wash our dirty laundry in public,' have let the dirty laundry accumulate so its stink undermines honesty, transparency and solidarity. Getting this book into the hard working hands of the women and men who ARE the unions will contribute immensely to building international solidarity and the vitality, vision and power of our labor movement itself..
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...