American Institute for Free Labor Development

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The American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) was an AFL-CIO organization whose purpose was to undermine foreign unions. It received funding from the US government, mostly through USAID, and starting in the 1980s it began receiving funds from the National Endowment for Democracy. The AIFLD also had close ties to the Central Intelligence Agency.

The AIFLD most often concentrated on union officials in foreign unions, both paying them off as well as "training" them.

The AIFLD was created in 1962. A US Comptroller General's report says "In May 1961 the AFL-CIO approached private foundations, business men, and government agencies to seek financing for the planned Institute". One of the foundations it applied to was the Michigan Fund, identified by Congressional sources as a conduit for CIA money. AIFLD found welcome open pockets in the business group. George Meany, President of the AFL-CIO and also of AIFLD, boasted support from the "largest corporations in the United States . . . Rockefeller, ITT, Kennecott, Standard Oil, Shell Petroleum . . . Anaconda, even Readers Digest. . . and although some of these companies have no connection whatsoever to US trade unions, they are all agreed that it was really in the US interest to help develop free trade unions in Latin America, and that's why they contributed so much money".

J. Peter Grace, Chairman of the Board of AIFLD and also Chairman of the Board of the W.R. Grace Corporation, one of the ninety five transnational companies that back the Institute, applies the doctrine in tactical terms. Grace says AIFLD urges "cooperation between labor and management and an end to class struggle" and "teaches workers to increase their company's business". He says the goal of AIFLD is to "prevent communist infiltration, and where it exists . . . get rid of it".

In October of 1995, John Sweeney replaced Lane Kirkland as head of the AFL-CIO. A few months later, the AFL-CIO asked the AIFLD executive director, William C. Doherty, Jr., to resign, and he did so. In 1997, the AIFLD was reorganized into the American Center for International Labor Solidarity.

"AIFLD is dedicated to "strengthening the democratic labor sector in terms of ... technical assistance and social projects ... primarily in the areas of education and training, manpower studies, cooperatives and housing." William Doherty is less equivocal when he points out that AIFLD is an example of the desirability of cooperation between employers and workers. He thus emphasizes AIFLD's main goal: to dispel the hostility of Latin American workers toward U.S. corporations.57
"A less optimistic but more realistic appraisal of AIFLD's role is given by Philip Agee in his book, Inside the Company. Speaking of its creation in 1962, he states that AIFLD is "Washington's answer to the limitations of current labor programs undertaken through AID as well as through ORIT and CIA stations." The problem, says Agee, was "how to accelerate expansion of labor organizing activities in Latin America in order to deny workers to labor unions dominated by the extreme left and to reverse communist and Castroite penetration."
""AID programs," says Agee, "are limited because of their direct dependence on the U.S. government.... ORIT programs are limited because its affiliates are weak or non-existent in some countries.... The CIA station programs are limited by personnel problems, but more so by the limits on the amount of money that can be channeled covertly through the stations and through international organizations like ORIT and ICFTU."59
"Under the official cover of "adult education," AIFLD sets up social projects such as workers' housing, credit unions and cooperatives. AIFLD's major task, however, is similar to ORIT's in that it seeks to organize anti-communist labor unions in Latin America. To this end, AIFLD set up training institutes which would carry on the teaching of courses presently being given by AIFLD members. And although administrate control of the training institutes in Washington would be by AIFLD, it was hoped that the institutes themselves would be headed by salaried CIA agents under operational control of the local CIA station.60
"A logical outcome of AIFLD's obsession with anti-communism was the direct participation of its trainees in the overthrow of Joao Goulart. Even before Goulart came to power, AFL-CIO leaders were critical of growing communist strength in both the labor movement and in Juscelino Kubitschek's government. In 1956, Romualdi, along with labor attaché Irving Salert and U.S. ambassador James C. Dunn, arranged to have Brazilian labor leaders visit the U.S. AIFLD's goal was the "development of a core of labor leaders who, by commanding the enthusiastic support of the rank and file, could turn back Communist attempts to capture the Brazilian labor movement."" [1]

Officers in 1992

(Sims, 1992, p.105-6)

External links

  • Peter Gribbin, "Brazil and CIA", CounterSpy, April- May 1979, pp. 4-23.
  • Beth Sims, "[Workers of the World Undermined: American Labor's role in U.S. foreign policy]", South End Press, 1992.