Labor’s Own Empire: The AFL-CIO’s Cold War in Honduras, 1954-1980

Dana Frank
UC Santa Cruz

This project analyzes the AFL-CIO’s imperial intervention in the Honduran labor movement, 1954-1980, as a case study of the federation’s large-scale intervention in labor movements throughout Latin America during the Cold War. With hundreds of millions of dollars in State Department funding, during the 1950s through 1990s the AFL-CIO developed anticommunist training programs, formed pro-U.S. collaborative unions, and built union halls and housing projects throughout the region, cooperating closely with the State Department and CIA. The AFL-CIO’s work in Honduras was the first large-scale, the most “successful” (on the AFL-CIO’s terms), and most well-funded per capita of any country. While journalists and scholars during the 1970s sketched out the broad origins of the AFL-CIO’s Latin American work, the extant literature remains largely superficial. Utilizing archival sources only recently available and interviews with a wide range of Honduran labor activists, this will be the first book-length, detailed analysis of the AFL-CIO’s work in a single country. It speaks to U.S. labor history, Honduran history, the history of the Cold War, and the history of U.S. foreign relations, and helps us understand the strategically important evolution of Honduran politics in the Cold War era and today.