Paul Garver


[Excerpt] Achieving real solidarity across national borders and around the globe is a difficult undertaking, one which little in our experience has prepared us for. Language barriers, differences in cultures and political traditions, very different styles of unionism — all these make simple communication, let alone real understanding of foreign workers' interests and concerns, difficult. Unfortunately, the AFL-CIO's official agency for helping us sort through these difficulties — the Department of International Affairs (DIA) — is not much help in doing so. In fact, as I argue here, the DIA is often an obstacle to building real solidarity.

After making this case, I will make some suggestions for how U.S. unions can move toward solidarity by avoiding the DIA structure — through direct participation in the International Trade Secretariats (ITSs), like the Metalworkers Federation mentioned above, and through forming "sister union" relationships with relevant unionists in other countries. But, eventually, the DIA must be opened up to reflect the broad and diverse interests of labor's rank-and-file rather than the narrow sectarian face it has shown the world for the past several decades.