Fight Against “Exploitation,” The Central Labor

The Central Labor Council and the AFL-CIO

Once the ACTU and Migration Division got things going in 1956, and with the support of IUE locals, IBEW Local 3 and District 65 leaders, the soon-to-be merged local CIO and AFL Central Labor Councils placed the fight against exploitation and in support of Puerto Rican workers as its principal goal by 1957. Central Labor Council leaders committed to supporting low wage workers and Puerto Rican “newcomers” and pushed other unions to name representatives to the “Spanish” work, while joining the ACTU in pressing AFL-CIO president in expelling corrupt internationals and supporting aggressive tactics against racket unions.  Member unions were urged to name representatives to the Spanish or Puerto Rican work.

By April and May 1957 sufficient pressure had been put on the AFL-CIO national leadership and by June the newly merged CLC and AFL-CIO national office staff had worked out a strategy. In 1957, the CLC established the AFL-CIO's Committee to End the Exploitation of Puerto Ricans and Other Minority Group Members, with official sanction and the authority to figure out jurisdictional disputes between unions. Behind this transition lay Harry Van Arsdale’s pressure to move forward in responding to the challenge in hand.[13] Throughout 1959 the effort to “liberate” exploited minority workers was the CLC’s singular priority.  Further pressure from the Central Labor Council, the Migration Division and workers themselves led the AFL-CIO national office to fund a full-time Spanish Speaking organizer.[14] In November 1959 AFL-CIO President Meany appointed Agustin (Gus) Benitez, a 20-year veteran of the labor movement, to this work.[15]  He became the broker for the CLC and its member unions receiving complaints directly from the media, MD, MCE and workers themselves.[16] IBEW leader Paul Sanchez took over this position in 1962 and served until 1967.

Continue to: The Mayor’s Committee against Exploitation

[13] Michael Mann, Director, Region II, AFL and CIO to Peter Mcgavin, 21 April 1959, AFL-CIO Collection, University of Maryland Special Collections.

[14] Hutchinson, John. The Imperfect Union; a History of Corruption in American Trade Unions. New York: Dutton, 1972, 328-333

[15] “AFL CIO Wages War on Racket Unions.” The Labor Leader, November 1959.

[16]200 hispanos declaran huelga en fabrica Bronx,” El Diario, 17 August 1960.