AFL-CIO

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AFL-CIO stands for "American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations". It is America's largest federation of labor unions, made up of 60 national and international (i.e., including Canada) unions, together representing more than 14 million workers--reaching 45 million people in union households. The AFL-CIO was formed in the 1955 when the AFL and CIO merged after a long estrangement.

In recent years the AFL-CIO has become an even bigger political powerhouse. While the federation represents 13 percent of U.S. workers it mobilizes 26 percent of voters.

Writing in 1993, Beth Sims noted that: "Although many of the individual programs sponsored by the AFL-CIO have helped foreign labor and even been sought by it, the overall foreign policy which is carried out by the AFL-CIO and its institutes often harms workers both in this country and overseas. Derived from the ideological biases of a select group of top labor bureaucrats-many of whom lack actual trade union experience-the resulting policies have stressed anticommunism at the expense of worker militancy. Simultaneously, these policies have affirmed the right of the United States to intervene in the affairs of other countries, whether through governmental or private actors." (Sims, 1993, p.2)

Funding the civil rights movement

"When in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. and the children of Birmingham put 2000 protesters in jail, it was the union movement leadership -- and not just the liberal wing but leaders like AFL-CIO President George Meany often seen as more conservative -- who paid the $160,000 to bail them out so they could march again.

"Bayard Rustin, the chief hands-on organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, was on union payroll in New York and using a union office when he did his organizing for the March. Reverend King himself worked out of the national UAW headquarters himself during planning of the march. Sometimes forgotten in history is the July 1963 Detroit march for civil rights in July proceeding the national march, where 200,000 people marched down the streets of Detroit with UAW head Walter Reuther leading the march with Martin Luther King. In fact, the march's official name was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Unions like the United Auto Workers bussed in large numbers to the crowd that day." [1]

Reforming the AFL-CIO

In 2005 Laurence Shoup reviewed the book The War At Home: The Corporate Offensive From Ronald Reagan To George W. Bush (authored by Jack Rasmus) in Zmag and noted that: "Rasmus concludes The War At Home by arguing for a reorganization of the AFL-CIO as the hope for a renewal of progressive class politics in the U.S. He proposes a plan for restructuring the labor movement and its main federation." [2]

Related SourceWatch resources

Critical Resources (not online)

  • Ronald Radosh, American Labor and United States Foreign Policy (New York: Random House, 1969)
  • Victor Reuther, The Brothers Reuther and the Story of the UAW (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976), p.440.
  • Gary K. Busch, The Political Role of International Trades Unions (London: MacMillan Press, 1983)
  • Sandy Boyer, "Here's Who the AFL-CIO is Funding in South Africa," Labor Notes, December 4, 1986.
  • Debbie Duke, “AFL-CIO: About-Face on South Africa,” Labor Notes, January 8-9, 1991.
  • Philip S. Foner, U.S. Labor Movement and Latin America: A History of Workers'Response to Intervention Vol. 1, 1846-1919 (South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey Publishers, Inc., 1988)
  • Hobart A. Spalding, Jr., "U.S. Labor Intervention in Latin America: The Case of the American Institute for Free Labor Development," in Roger Southall, ed., Trade Unions and the New Industrialization of the Third World (London: Zed Books, 1988)
  • Dave Spooner, Partners or Predators: International Trade Unionism and Asia (Hong Kong: Asia Monitor Resource Center, 1989)
  • Tom Barry and Deb Preusch, AIFLD in Central America: Agents as Organizers (Albuquerque, NM: Inter-Hemispheric Education Resource Center, 1986)
  • Peter Levy, The New Left and Labor in the 1960s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), p.24.
  • Dean Frutiger, AFL-CIO China Policy: Labor's New Step Forward or the Cold War Revisited? Labor Studies Journal, September 1, 2002; 27(3), pp.67-80.

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