During the Cold War the foreign policy of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), was heavily criticized by scholars and activists for following the lead of the U.S. state in its overseas operations. In a wide range of states, the AFL-CIO worked to destabilize governments selected by the U.S. state for regime change, while in others the Federation helped stabilize client regimes of the U.S. state. In 1997 the four regional organizations that previously carried out AFL-CIO foreign policy were consolidated into the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (Solidarity Center). My dissertation is an attempt to analyze whether the foreign policy of the AFL-CIO in the Solidarity Center era is marked by continuity or change with past practices. At the same time, this study will attempt to add to the debate over the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the post-Cold War era, and its implications for future study.
Using the qualitative “process-tracing” detailed by of Alexander George and Andrew Bennett (2005) my study examines a wide array of primary and secondary sources, including documents from the NED and AFL-CIO, in order to analyze the relationship between the Solidarity Center and the U.S. state from 2002-2009. Furthermore, after analyzing broad trends of NED grants to the Solidarity Center, this study examines three dissimilar case studies including Venezuela, Haiti, and Iraq and the Middle East and North African (MENA) region to further explore the connections between U.S. foreign policy goals and the Solidarity Center operations.
The study concludes that the evidence indicates continuity with past AFL-CIO foreign policy practices whereby the Solidarity Center follows the lead of the U.S. state. It has been found that the patterns of NED funding indicate that the Solidarity Center closely tailors its operations abroad in areas of importance to the U.S. state, that it is heavily reliant on state funding via the NED for its operations, and that the Solidarity Center works closely with U.S. allies and coalitions in these regions. Finally, this study argues for the relevance of “top-down” NGO creation and direction in the post-Cold War era.