In 1962, the AFL-CIO launched its government-funded labor education project in Latin America — the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) — to spread the tenets of anticommunist, “free” trade unionism. From its earliest days, leftists and anti-imperialists accused the Institute of being a CIA front with the mission of “brainwashing” Third World workers into becoming counterrevolutionaries. While AIFLD was indisputably a Cold War program aligned with US foreign policy objectives, its goal of proselytizing US-style industrial relations should not be understood solely as a CIA-manufactured ploy. It was also the product of a broader social-scientific vision in the 1950s and 1960s to rapidly “modernize” the Third World and to stabilize labor conflict through rational, pluralist industrial relations.

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