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Thomas R. Donahue is a long-standing union organizer who has been involved in organized labor since the 1940s. Donahue was a prominent anti-communist during the Cold War, and has been affiliated with a number of prominent neoconservative groups, including the Hudson Institute and Freedom House’s American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. He has also been involved in various democracy promotion organizations, having served on the boards of the National Endowment for Democracy and the Albert Shanker Institute, a union-affiliated non-profit that supports and education and democracy initiatives.
According to his bio on the website of the Shanker Institute, Donahue “served as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO from 1979 to 1995 and AFL-CIO president in 1995. From 1967 to 1969, he was Assistant Secretary for Labor-Management Relations at the U.S. Department of Labor. He was executive secretary and first vice president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) from 1969 to l973, and from 1973 to 1979 was an executive assistant to then-AFL-CIO president George Meany.”
In 1995, after then-AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland was pushed out by other union leaders after 16 years at the helm, he chose Donahue as his successor. Eager for a change at the top, union members elected John Sweeney instead.
In 1997, Donahue joined the National Endowment for Democracy’s Board of Directors and was elected Vice Chair in 2002. The AFL-CIO was one of the founders and core institutes of NED. Many labor figures have played key roles within NED, most notably Carl Gershman, Lane Kirkland, and Donahue.
Donahue is the founder of the Committee for Free Trade Unionism (CFTU) and serves as its chairman. The committee targets its trade union activism on current and former communist governments, with an emphasis on Cuba, Burma, Vietnam, North Korea, and China.
Donahue is married to Rachelle Horowitz, vice chair of the board of the National Democratic Institute. She was a leader of the conservative faction of the Socialist Party that splintered off in the early 1970s, eventually becoming Social Democrats USA.
NED, “2006 Democracy Service Medal,” http://www.ned.org/events/democracy-service-medal/2006.
CFTU, “New CFTU Website,” http://freetradeunionism.org/2010/04/the-new-cftu-website/.
Group Watch: Social Democrats USA, http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/articles/display/Social_Democrats_USA.