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Free Trade Union Institute

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Free Trade Union Institute

Acronym/Code: FTUI

Updated: 9/89

Categories: Labor

Background: The Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI) was created in 1977 when the AFL-CIO resurrected and renamed the moribund Free Trade Union Committee (FTUC). The purpose was to increase U.S. influence with European trade unions, especially in Spain and Portugal. (16) It was almost defunct in 1983 when Congress began funding the newly-created National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and FTUI has been the largest grantee ever since. (3) NED’s purpose is "to encourage the establishment and growth of democratic development in a manner consistent both with the broad concerns of United States national interests and with the specific requirements of the democratic groups in other countries which are aided by the endowment."(14) FTUI is one of four core grantees of NED. The other three are the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), National Republican Institute for International Affairs, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. In 1988 NED received over $20 million from the U.S. taxpayers. (15) Congress authorizes U.S. Information Agency (USIA) funds for NED which in turn gives money to FTUI and other grantees. FTUI then funds overseas projects which are usually managed by AFL-CIO’s three regional labor institutes: American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), Asian-American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI), and the African-American Labor Center (AALC). (2)

FTUI says it "supports programs that provide assistance for democratic education, training in basic union skills, and organizing assistance… sponsors exchanges between trade unionists… and supports research on labor rights and human rights…"(4)

Both NED and FTUI have received widespread support from both U.S. political parties, the business community, and even the right wing, as can be seen by supporter Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah)–a labor opponent in the domestic sphere. A Hatch aide explained why his boss decided to back the AFL-CIO’s intl operations, saying the AFL-CIO worldwide "has tremendous leverage for political activity compared to say, CIA covert operations, which often fail."(5) In congressional hearings, Senator Hatch stated "I have seen the excellent work of the labor institute over the last several years, and frankly, they have carried a large share of the burden in sowing the seeds of democracy abroad."(6)

In an undated memorandum from the early days of NED’s operations, FTUI executive director, Eugenia Kemble, instructed NED executive director, Carl Gershman to "avoid advertising" projects in certain countries where recipients would "either be endangered or embarrassed if specific budgets were published or announced."(7)

NED was embarrassed in November 1985 when one of these FTUI projects was disclosed. FTUI had awarded $1. 4 million to two right-wing groups in France. It is still not clear why NED thought democracy was in trouble in France. More than half a million dollars had gone to a student group that had fewer than 1,000 members and was an offshoot of an organization known for its violent and criminal predilections. (9)

Funding: FTUI is the largest grantee of NED receiving $24. 6 million from 1985-1988. (8) A very small portion of FTUI’s funding comes from the AFL-CIO. (2)

Activities:Philippines: The largest recipient of FTUI funds between 1983-1988 was the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), which historically was tied to the Marcos government. (8) NED states that FTUI is helping "to strengthen the TUCP" and that "the TUCP supports a media relations and communications program, voter awareness and civic action campaigns on topical issues and training in democratic ideology and technical organizatioal skills for workers."(15) After the assassination of opposition Senator Benigno Aquino in 1983, TUCP received a $3 million grant. According to Bud Phillips, AAFLI administrator in the Philippines,"Our help saved the free trade union movement… . Imagine if you have US$100,000 to give out to families in US$500 chunks. Your stock goes way up, faster than the stock of any of the militant labour groups." [Average annual income in the Philippines: $790. ] When Joseph Lee, U.S. labor attache in Manila asked about NED programs in the Philippines, the late Irving Brown (AFL-CIO Intl Affairs Dept) blocked Lee’s inquiries and threatened to have him fired. State Dept officials told Lee to "lay off, it’s none of your business."(8)

Poland: The largest recipient of FTUI grants from 1985-1989 is the Solidarnosc. (8) With its funding Solidarnosc was to disseminate information, sustain union ativists, maintain its adminstrative infrastructure, and through its Brussels-based office disseminate information to the West on worker rights violations in Poland. (15) Jerry Milewski, director of Solidarnosc’s Brussels bureau said the grants were used for a social fund for Solicarnosc members, and for printing and communications equipment. Radical factions within Solicarnosc criticise the tight hold on funds by Lech Walesa and the union leadership. (8)

Portugal: Established in 1979 by the Social Party and the Social Democratic Party as a counterweight to the communistoriented CGTP, the UGT union federation has received 7 percent of all FTUI grants from 1985-1988. After the 1974 revolution, takeover by the Portugese Communist Party was seen by the U.S. to be a major threat. Portugal is regarded by the U.S. as the weakest link in the chain of West European democracies. It is also of strategic importance to the U.S. because of its nuclear bases on the Azores in the North Atlantic. (8)

Spain: FTUI grant recipient ELA-STV, the major trade union in the Basque region, is linked to the conservative Basque Natl Party. The separatist ETA movement is active in the Basque region and seen as a threat to liberal democracy in Spain. FTUI hopes the ELA-STV will serve as a moderating force in the region against the radical Basque trade unions and the communistoriented CCOO union which is active throughout the country. (8) NED says the FTUI funding is so that "trade union staff and shop stewards will receive intensive training in basic union skills and democratic values."(15)

Panama: In 1984 FTUI funded the (Republic of) Panamanian Confederation of Workers (CTRP) for use in the country’s presidential election campaign, in support of Nicolas Barletta, the military-backed candidate. The U.S. Ambassador in Panama called it a "hare-brained" project. (10)

Mozambique: In September 1984 three high-level representatives of the MNR met with Eugenia Kemble and Nana Mahoma, FTUI coordinator of South Africa programs. According to a confidential memo, the MNR representatives were searching for support and training."They are anxious to make a start in the labor field by training some of the people now who will take leadership positions in the future labor movement," the memo said. (11) They established a new organization, Friends of Mozambique, which according to NED annual reports has not yet received FTUI funding.

France: Also in 1984, FTUI channeled $1. 4 million to two center-right groups in France (Force Ouvriere, an anticommunist trade union, and Inter-University Union, an anticommunist student federation with reputed ties to the Service d’Action Civique, an extreme-right paramilitary group) that opposed the policies of President Francois Mitterand’s Socialist Party. These grants were never publicly reported because FTUI promised the French recipients it would keep the agreement secret. (12) These grants have been discontinued but NED continues to fund the Force Ouvriere’s affiliates in Africa and the Caribbean using FTUI as a pass-through. (15)

South Africa: In early 1985 Black union leaders from South Africa visited Washington to attend a labor conference. As the conference proceeded, the South Africans saw that FTUI was supporting their struggle for its use in Cold War politics. By early 1986, the Congress of South African Trade Unions decided to forgo any formal ties with FTUI or NED. (9)

Government Connections: As noted above, FTUI is almost completely funded through the U.S. Information Agency. Congressional oversight is required of NED–and presumably of NED projects-and documents are supposed to remain open to the public.

Private Connections: (13)

Thomas R. Donahue, Board of Trustees Hudson Inst and AIFLD. James E. Hatfield, Board of Trustees AIFLD.

John T. Joyce, Board of Directors Natl Democratic Inst, A. Philip Randolph Inst and League for Industrial Democracy, Board of Trustees AIFLD.

Tom Kahn, Board of Directors A. Philip Randolph Inst, and League for Industrial Democracy, Natl Comt of Social Democracts USA.

Lane Kirkland, Board of Directors NED and AIFLD. Jay Mazur, Board of Directors League for Industrial Democracy and Council for a Democractic Majority, Board of Trustees AIFLD, and Natl Advisory Council of Social Democrats USA.

Albert Shanker, Board of Directors NED, A. Philip Randolph Inst, Council for a Democratic Majority, and League for Industrial Democracy, Board of Trustees Freedom House and AIFLD, Natl Advisory Council of Social Democrats USA.

John J. Sweeney, Board of Directors League for Industrial Democracy.

Lynn R. Williams Board of Directors League for Industrial Democracy, Board of Trustees AIFLD, Natl Advisory Council of Social Democrats USA.

Misc:Comments:U.S. Address: Suite 705, 815 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20006

(202-637-5060).

Principals: Board of Directors: Marvin J. Boede, United Assn of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industries; John DeConcini, Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers Intl Union; Thomas R. Donahue, AFL-CIO; James E. Hatfield, Glass Bottle Blowers’ Assn; John T. Joyce, Bricklayers; Tom Kahn, AFL-CIO; Lane Kirkland, AFL-CIO; Jay Mazur, Intl Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union; Albert Shanker, American Federation of Teachers; John J. Sweeney, Service Employees Intl; Lynn R. Williams, United Steelworkers of America. (1) Eugenia Kemble, exec dir.

Sources:1. Phone interview by the Resource Center, 7-18-89.

2. AIFLD in Central America: Agents as Organizers, Tom Barry and Deb Preusch, Resource Center, 1987.

3. NED Annual Report, 1986, 1987, 1988; "Grants Awarded Fiscal Year 1985"; and "Grants Awarded Fiscal Year 1984."

4. FTUI,"The Free Trade Union Institute," brochure, no date. 5. Washington Post, November 19, 1986.

6. Foreign Relations Authorizations FY1986 and 1987, Committee on Foreign Relations, p. 544.

7. Undated memo from Eugenia Kemble to Carl Gershman.

8. International Labour Reports, May/June 1989.

9. Jefferson Morley,"Better NED Than Dead?" Dissent, Spring 1986.

10. Washington Post, June 28, 1984.

11."Free Trade Union Institute," factsheet produced by the National Committee on Religion and Labor, 1987.

12. Congressional Record, December 4, 1985, Vol. 131, No. 166, p. E5430.

13. 1988 and 1989 publications from AIFLD, NED, Natl Democratic Inst, A. Philip Randolph Inst, League for Industrial Democracy, Social Democrats USA, Hudson Inst, Council for a Democratic Majority, and Freedom House.

14."National Endowment for Democracy," factsheet produced by the National Committee on Religion and Labor, 1987.

15. NED, Annual Report, 1988.

16. 30th Anniversary Report of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, AFL-CIO, Oct 28, 1985.

The underlying cites for this profile are now kept at Political Research Associates, (617) 666-5300. www.irc-online.org.

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