Worker-To-Worker Solidarity Committee
Cut All Ties with NED
by Kim Scipes, MRZine
www.zmag.org, May 1, 2006
On March 6th, over 50 union members from
several unions and activist allies picketed the headquarters of
the AFL-CIO in Washington, DC. This was to demand that the AFL-CIO's
Solidarity Center immediately break off all ties with the misnamed
National Endowment for Democracy or NED.
The NED is a leading component of the
US Government's efforts to maintain the US Empire, and the Solidarity
Center is one of the NED's four "core institutes," along
with the international wing of the Republican Party, the international
wing of the Democratic Party, and the international wing of the
US Chamber of Commerce. Involvement with the NED is one of the
AFL-CIO national leaders' efforts to use the name of American
workers to undercut workers' efforts around the world, while never
informing rank and file members (and many of our leaders) of such
This demonstration was the latest development
in a series of actions that have placed increasing pressure on
the AFL-CIO's national-level foreign policy leadership. Labor
activists have been working for years to transform the AFL-CIO's
foreign policy program from serving as "labor imperialism"
to becoming a force for genuine international labor solidarity.
To date, the AFL-CIO foreign policy leadership has refused to
make such a change.
Changes from previous activities that
were charged as being "labor imperialism" appeared to
have been made upon John Sweeney's assumption of the Presidency
in October 1995. However, documented Solidarity Center activities
in Venezuela established conclusively that the Solidarity Center
was involved in bringing together its long-time right wing ally,
the CTV (Workers Confederation of Venezuela), with the national
business confederation, FEDECAMARAS, just prior to the attempted
coup against democratically-elected President Hugo Chavez in April
2002: CTV and FEDECAMARAS leaders played prominent roles in the
coup attempt. [This was a process that was very similar to AIFLD's
(American Institute for Free Labor Development-the AFL-CIO's
then-Latin American affiliate) operations in Chile in 1972-73,
just before the coup against democratically-elected President
Salvador Allende that led to the death of thousands and the establishment
of the Pinochet Dictatorship.] Besides copies of reports of
activities to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) about
their activities in Venezuela, researchers found that the NED
had provided the Solidarity Center with over $700,000 between
1997 and 2002 for its work in Venezuela. (See www.labornotes.org/archives/2004/04/articles/e.html
A resolution was passed unanimously by
the 2.4 million member California AFL-CIO in July 2004 in its
State Convention that condemned the AFL-CIO foreign policy program.
Its "Build Unity and Trust with Workers Worldwide"
resolution was forwarded to the AFL-CIO for the 2005 National
Convention in Chicago. (See www.uslaboragainstwar.org/article.php?id=6394
A detailed discussion of the AFL-CIO foreign
policy program under Sweeney was published in May 2005. It concluded,
"In short, there are good reasons to believe that under AFL-CIO
President John Sweeney, labor's foreign policy has reverted back
to 'traditional' labor imperialism" (www.monthlyreview.org/0505scipes.htm
Following that, an in-depth report concerning
the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its work in Venezuela
was published in July 2005. This article also explained the
Solidarity Center's relationship with the NED. (See www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?sectionID=19&itemID=8268
However, AFL-CIO national-level leadership
worked to ensure that the California AFL-CIO's "Build Unity
and Trust" resolution would not reach the convention floor
unimpeded. (See www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?sectionID=19&itemID=8150
.) Over 100 union members and our allies-a joint project of the
Latin American Solidarity Committee and its Chicago affiliate,
Organizing Group to Say No to the NED-demonstrated at Chicago's
Navy Pier on the hottest day of the year, urging support for "Build
Unity and Trust," and then marched over to the Sheraton Hotel,
which was the headquarters for the Convention. Needless to say,
the demonstration was ignored by AFL-CIO leaders. And then, on
the Convention floor, Sweeney ally Gerald McEntee of AFSCME, refused
to let speakers support the California resolution (www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?sectionID=19&itemID=8421
Subsequently, Jeb Sprague has reported
that the Solidarity Center had been operating in Haiti. They
had passed on almost $100,000 to Batay Ouvriye Labor Center, an
organization that had not opposed the overthrow of the democratically-elected
government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Sprague, however, had not
claimed that Batay had been involved in the coup, which had been
led by the United States, France and Canada. (See http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/scipes250106.html
The Washington demonstration on March
6 was a continuation of a campaign to force the Solidarity Center
to break all ties with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
Out of the National Solidarity Conference with Venezuela that
took place in DC on March 4-5, union members and activists had
launched the Worker-to-Worker Solidarity Committee, to mobilize
support within AFL-CIO affiliated unions to break all ties with
the reactionary NED.
The Worker-to-Worker Solidarity Committee
initiated a demonstration in front of the National Endowment for
Democracy offices on 15th Street. Interestingly, despite several
contacts, the Washington Post refused to cover the demonstration,
even though the NED offices are literally just across the street.
A very spirited rally was held for over an hour on March 6th.
However, a suggestion was made that we
should go to "another end of the funding pipeline,"
and that was when the demonstration moved about four blocks to
the AFL-CIO headquarters. Marchers were significantly present,
and with a bullhorn, were able to adequately convey their demands
that the AFL-CIO cut all ties with the NED. AFL-CIO leaders were
said to be "outraged," and apparently tried to get one
participant fired from his union staffer job in an affiliated
union, although to no avail. Needless to say, no AFL-CIO or Solidarity
Center leader spoke to the protestors, although they had a building
guard threaten a protestor carrying a Venezuelan flag who had
stepped close to the building. Protestors took down their picket
line after about 40 minutes of loud chanting and speeches.
There will be a special meeting sponsored
by the Worker-to-Worker Solidarity Committee on Saturday evening
at this year's Labor Notes convention, May 5-7, 2006, in Dearborn,
MI-see www.labornotes.org . Under the title, "International
Labor Solidarity or Labor Imperialism?," members will briefly
share developments with others present and seek to expand participation
in the Committee, as the next step in developing the campaign
to end all AFL-CIO connections with the NED. More information
can be obtained beforehand from the Worker-to-Worker Solidarity
Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org . A web site is in the
process of being developed to enhance communication, and hopefully,
its launching will be announced at the meeting.
(Although most of the references above
are to my own work, many of them contain references to the wide
number of materials developed by a growing number of authors.
Details are contained in many of the above-referenced articles,
which can be downloaded from the Internet.)
Kim Scipes is a member of the National
Writers Union and a long-time global labor activist in the US.
He currently teaches sociology at Purdue University North Central
in Westville, Indiana. His on-line bibliography on "Contemporary
Labor Issues" can be accessed at http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes/LaborBib.htm.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
National Endowment for Democracy (NED)