Call For AFL-CIO to Open AIFLD Files

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

For those people, in particular trade union activists who are following developments in our movement, you should be aware of the resolution passed recently by the Duluth (Minn) Labor Body AFL-CIO. The resolution calls on the AFL-CIO leadership and President Richard Trumka to allow the University of Maryland to open the AFL-CIO’s AIFLD archives.  AIFLD was an AFL-CIO department that was set up in the 1960’s in order to combat and suppress any labor organizations throughout the third world that rejected the pro-business US model. It is well documented that AIFLD, funded heavily by the US government, was infiltrated by the CIA and supported the pro-capitalist US foreign policy.

The UAW’s Victor Reuther was an outspoken critic of this referring to the AFL’s “cloak and dagger” operations and the “indiscriminate whitewashing of the obvious shortcomings in US foreign policy.”*  The CIA through AIFLD and backed by the extreme anti-communism of the cold war and AFL-CIO leadership under George Meany and then Lane Kirkland, resorted to all sorts of coercion and violence to undermine radical and democratic unionism.

Rob McKenzie, a former UAW local president and Ford worker wrote the resolution which reads as follows:

Whereas, workers in Ford Motor’s Mexico City Assembly Plant were involved in a series of labor disputes in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s resisting efforts to bring their wages and benefits down to the level of the new plants on the U.S. border and demanding democratic elections in their union.  Many were kidnapped, beaten, shot and fired.  One died from wounds received in the plant.

Whereas, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), a now defunct arm of the AFL-CIO was reputedly involved in these events and the AFL-CIO has sent the old records from this group to the University of Maryland, the official repository for AFL-CIO records.

Whereas, the University of Maryland has requested permission for a year to open new AIFLD records and archive them for researchers and has not received approval from the National AFL-CIO to do so.

Therefore, be it resolved, That the National AFL-CIO take the action necessary to allow archivists at the University of Maryland to open new American Institute for Free Labor Development records.

 

This is a very reasonable resolution.  It was passed unanimously by my own blue collar local, AFSCME Local 444, in Oakland California. It was tabled at the St Paul (Minn) Labor Council which in itself is a victory. It has also been endorsed by the Chicago DSA Labor Group, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the Workers’ Solidarity Network and is being debated in three locals this week in California.

 

I would hope that the DSA nationally could endorse it. But while it is important that groups outside of organized labor support it, it is crucial that DSA members and anyone else in unions raise it at their local meetings. If there is any chance the AFL-CIO leadership would open the archives it is if enough pressure is brought to bear through the ranks of the labor movement, the locals and other bodies.  Even if a local of Labor Council fails to pass it, the fact that it is raised and discussed is important not just as a means to pressure the AFL-CIO leadership but also as a way to raise the consciousness of the rank and file union member and stress the importance of international solidarity among workers. It is our history.

 

It is almost certain that sections of the AFL-CIO leadership collaborated with forces in Latin and Central America in order to defend the interests of US corporations.  If they did that there, we know that it occurred, and still does, here in the US.

 

The resolution on union letterhead can be downloaded here  There is an article from the Duluth Labor Paper giving little background here

 

* Nelson Lichtenstein:
The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit, Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor p332

 

Richard Mellor is a retired backhoe operator, former public utility worker and rank and file labor activist. He is a socialist and DSA member. He was editor of the Afscme Activist, a rank and file opposition newsletter in Afscme during the late 1990’s and a co-founder of the blog Facts For Working People

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One Response

  1. This should be done. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

    The history of AFL-CIO anti-communism (and anti-socialism), and support for U.S. military intervention, especially in Latin America, is not pretty – but it is history to be learned from. If U.S. labor today would put the same energy into building global democratic unions as we once put into fighting communists, we’d be in a stronger position. Of course, we wouldn’t get corporate or U.S. government funding this time – but we might find a lot of young allies.

    – Carl Proper
    U.S. Peace Corps/Panama, ILGWU, UNITE, UNITE HERE, retired.

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