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Message-ID: <v02130513b05401990b91@[]>
Date: Sun, 28 Sep 1997 23:37:26 -0500
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Kim Scipes <sscipe1@ICARUS.CC.UIC.EDU>
Subject: Inside the AFL-CIO Convention--Sept. 24, 1997
Comments: To: AFTEditor@AOL.COM

Albert Shanker and the AFL-CIO in support of U.S. imperialism

By Kim Scipes, former AFT member
28 September 1997

Folks--The following message was forwarded to me, and gives an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) report on the recent AFL-CIO convention. I am forwarding the entire message as I received it, as it might be interesting to people.

However, before sending it on, I want to condemn IN THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE MANNER the tributes to Albert Shanker for his international affairs work. My ability to register my utter disgust for Shanker's work in this area--I will let others discuss his work within the AFT itself--is hindered by the lack of non-sexist terms in the English language to describe him, nor do I want to inappropriately slander animals such as "pig" or "dog"--about the only thing I can come up with is the term "maggot" to describe him for his work around the world.

Albert Shanker was one of the worst--and that is saying a lot--of the AFL-CIO "cold warriors." His interest was not in democracy, or workers' rights, or freedom--his only interest was in keeping workers subjugated so US capital could continue or to gain access to countries around the world. Again and again, he supported dictatorships and/or efforts to hinder miltiant labor movements that were challenging dictatorships.

Sandra Feldman approvingly points out his work in places like Chile and South Africa--well, what did the AFL-CIO do in these countries? The AFL-CIO actively worked to support efforts that, if they didn't include the coup in Chile, certainly helped to lay the groundwork for the coup in 1973. That lead to the Pinochet Dictatorship--and it is beyond my comprehension as to how that helped workers.

In South Africa, the AFL-CIO supported the efforts of Chief Buthelezi to create a new labor movement in Natal to undermine COSATU. COSATU was one of the key forces that were attacking the entire system of apartheid and arguably the key organization that enabled the anti-apartheid movement to survive after the State of Emergency was imposed in the late 1980s. The AFL-CIO gave the George Meany Human Rights Award (sic) to Buthelezi in, I believe, 1982. In other words, the AFL-CIO, and particularly the International Affairs Department under Shanker, were working to destroy a key organization in the fight against apartheid. And that is beyond my comprehension as to how that helped workers.

From my work in the Philippines, I know that the AFL-CIO worked to defeat any militant labor challenges to the Dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, and most particularly that of the KMU, the May First Movement. Between 1983-1988, the AFL-CIO (again, specifically through the International Affairs Dept under Shaker) channeled over $5.7 million to the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), which was created by the Marcos Dictatorhship in 1975 to channel labor into a corporate relationship with the Dictatorship; $3 million of this came after the assassination (by Marcos' "security forces") of Benigno Aquino on August 21, 1983 and the summer of 1985 (Marcos was not overthrown until February 25, 1986), and was specifically intended to counteract the work of the KMU. The total of $5.7 million was more money than sent to any other labor movement in the world during this period.

But I have even more details on the Philippines. The TUCP was the labor center that the AFL-CIO was supporting. The key union within TUCP is the Associated Labor Unions (ALU), and the President of the TUCP since 1978, Democrito Mendoza, was one of the founders of ALU. Therefore, activities of ALU give us a particularly clear vision of activities supported in the Philippines. Between 1987 and at least 1988, ALU actively joined with management, the Philippine Constabulary, local government officials, other right wing unions, and a notorious DEATH SQUAD (I do not exaggerate) to try to replace a KMU-affiliated union that was representing workers in Atlas Mines, the largest copper mining complex in all of Southeast Asia. Fortunately, ALU and its alllies failed--despite 10 union members killed and 7 wounded, despite three relatives of union members being killed and another 6 wounded, despite 8 cases of shots being fired into the union office or members' homes, 2 stabbings, 5 attempted murders, 12 shootings, 21 death threats, and many forcible arrests, in an election certified by the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment, the KMU-affiliated local union won 5,025 votes (68%) out of 7,395 valid votes, while ALU won 292 votes. [To be clear: the violence suffered by the KMU union was done collectively, and I am not attributing it to ALU specifically; however, ALU's radio station, DYLA, openly broadcasted pro-vigilante (the local term for death squads) propaganda, and sponsored anticommunist and "human rights" seminars for the workers in order to denounce the KMU and to preach the "Christian" values of ALU and the TUCP. ALU's head of its education department was man named Cerge Remonde, and Remonde was a radio commentator on ALU's station DYLA, and was one of the leaders of the People's Alliance Against Communism (PAAC)--the regional chairperson of PAAC was the local mayor of Toledo City, and the wife of the Executive Vice President of Atlas Mines.]

And if this is not enough, in September 1991, the AFL-CIO channeled $3.7 million to Philippine Senator Ernesto Herrera, who was also Secretary General of the TUCP, in exchange for his vote to retain the US military bases in the Philippines. (These bases, and particularly the one at Subic Bay, were the jumping off point for every US invasion of Asia since 1898.) Herrera admitted getting the money when publicly challenged. Nonetheless, the Philippine Senate voted to NOT extend the lease on the bases, and by the end of 1992, all US bases were closed down in the country. (All of the details regarding AFL-CIO activities in the Philippines are taken from my 1996 book on the KMU titled KMU: BUILDING GENUINE TRADE UNIONISM IN THE PHILIPPINES, 1980-1994, which is available through Sulu Arts and Books in San Francisco, although it was published in the Philippines.)

And all of these activities are beyond my comprehension as to how they could help workers.

The AFL-CIO did support Solidarnosc in Poland, and Shanker has gotten credit for this. The bigger question is why: was the support given to help the workers, or to weaken "communism." I think there can be no doubt that the reason was the latter.

In other words, any rhetoric that Albert Shanker was interested in helping workers overseas or supporting their struggles is bullshit. Albert Shanker was, is and will always be a maggot in my understanding. If there is a hell (however one wants to describe it), Shanker deserves a place even worse than Richard Nixon's--labor leaders who claim to be helping workers yet causing death, destruction, misery and continued oppression of workers and/or entire societies deserve only the absolute worst.

This is the type of activities that any truly progressive AFL-CIO must end and condemn. Major steps apparently have been taken by the New Voice team, but there still remain serious questions about AFL-CIO activities in particular countries, such as the Philippines. In fact, until all of the AFL-CIO files are opened to public inspection, with a full accounting given on all past and present foreign operations, and appropriate apologies given and assurances made that these activities will not be repeated, it will be extremely difficult for workers around the world to trust the US labor movement.

Solidarity forever--domination never!

Kim Scipes--former AFT member

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