« PreviousContinue »
Mr. OTERO. In Rio de Janeiro for 3 years, and I lived 24 years in Peru, Lima, Peru.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Go right ahead, please.
Mr. OTERO. Since my return to the United States in July of 1966 I have continued to travel frequently to the area in an effort to continue to assist the ITF in its worthy endeavors.
Our support of bill S. 1779 stems from our strong belief, Mr. Chairman, that with the proper kind of support and assistance the work of organizations that are already performing this task in the developing nations of the world, such as the ITF, there will be a better chance to enhance and strengthen the capacity of the other peoples of the world to develop and maintain free, independent societies in their own nations.
My testimony, Mr. Chairman, has been developed with the specific objective of helping this committee in learning about the outstanding work being performed by private, nongovernmental, organizations which are employing their own resources, such as the ITĖ, with the assistance of its affiliated unions in the United States and other parts of the world in a most successful endeavor to lend assistance where it is needed through an international program of people to people.
At this point I would like to concur with the recommendations contained in the testimony offered yesterday morning by Mr. Joseph Beirne, president of the Communication Workers of America, with regard to the fact that the U.S.-origin provisos appearing on page 5, lines 16 through 19, be deleted so that organizations not organized in the United States be included for participation in the foundation's activities.
Mr. Chairman, in order to facilitate the work of this committee, I believe that it would be of assistance to your work if I were to tell you about the ITF and its historical role in the world in preserving democracy.
The International Transport Workers Federation is an international trade union organization to which bona fide trade unions which uphold democratic principles and have members employed in the transport industry can affiliate.
This organization represents 7 million workers in 88 countries of the free world and embraces every type of transport worker without distinction of race, color, or nationality.
Its aims are to provide international assistance to its affiliates; to defend and promote the economic and social standards of the transport worker; to seek universal recognition of his right to the benefits of trade union membership, and to represent the worker in international agencies.
Its history of about 70 years, starting from 1896, has set an unrivaled record as the defender of the transport workers' interests against exploitation by employers and governments alike.
During the days of World War II, when Europe was occupied by Nazi forces, the ITF and its affiliated unions played a most significant role in helping to turn Hitler's dream of world domination into a horrible nightmare
Members of the ITF unions executed plans designed to create as much disruption in the transportation of materiel and men so that the effort of the Allied Forces in Europe would not be hampered.
One of the most significant programs in the preservation of democracy was carried on by the ITF whereby seafarers of occupied nations were encouraged to take their vessels to allied ports and to turn them over to the democracies. The organization also supplied key personnel for underground work. It assisted in the sabotage of Nazi transport and it aided and saved the lives of many German trade unionists who were being hunted by the Gestapo Forces.
In many other countries, German officials often woke in the morning to find out that the docks, the dock areas, were clogged with vehicles previously unloaded because the ITF had sabotaged those vehicles, taken the rotors and, therefore, making them unable to move.
I have just mentioned a few of the activities that form many chapters in the federation's 70 years of history. This is an organization that has contributed to create a militant force of transport workers around the world and as a relentless, effective enemy of all types of oppression.
An organization of less resilience could not have survived two world wars, world economic depression, and the onslaught of a variety of dictatorships, both from the right and from the left.
The Railway Labor Executives' Association, which I am privileged to represent this morning, has been actively involved in the field of international affairs for many years. Its involvement began during the crucial days following the end of World War II, particularly in connection with the development and implementation of the Marshall plan, and it was, Mr. Chairman, the significant work of the ITF again which permitted the unhampered flow of materials and goods under the Marshall plan to Europe which utlimately assured the success of this worthy program, devised under the administration of President Truman.
Since that time, American railway labor and many other U.S. transportation unions affiliated with the ITF have made a considerable human and financial contribution to the outstanding work performed by the ITF in most of the developing nations of the world.
But in spite of the generous contributions that we have made to the work of the ITF, this organization has found itself always groping with the problem of financing its activities. Although the federation is representative of 7 million workers, it finds it impossible at times to conduct all the activities that this tremendous task requires.
However, it earns enough to maintain a worldwide structure of over 70 years of experience aimed at servicing its affiliates in every corner of the globe. A large part of its income goes to the program of regional activities which is an effective but modest program designed to lend technical and financial assistance to needy democratic transport unions in the developing nations.
Particular emphasis is placed in the areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where the ITF maintains regional offices manned by experienced trade unionists. These representatives travel regularly throughout their regions lending assistance to affiliated unions, assisting them in times of conflict, and helping them to develop and participate in the societies in which they live.
In carrying out these important tasks, ITF representatives are often outnumbered and outfinanced, for they face competition from well-staffed, rich international organizations, sponsored by certain church groups and also, on the other hand, by the international Communist Party, which compete openly with the ITF in luring unions and labor leaders to their respective camps. To compound this problem, in some instances, there are church groups today working hand-inhand with Communist-dominated internationals. Yet, Mr. Chairman, the ITF has prevailed.
The sad part of this wholly worthy endeavor is less than $200,000, uxactly $170,000, is available to cover all of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In spite of this rather stringent budge the ITF has made remarkable progress. In fact, many an emerging nationGuatemala, the most recent example-struggling to consolidate democratically elected governments, have found the ITF to be of vital assistance in preserving the stability of such governments.
In the case of Guatemala, Mr. Chairman, the ITF responsibly cooperated with the authorities in seeking a prompt and fair solution to a serious labor problem, serious labor conflict, which, if left indefinitely unresolved, might have caused the very collapse of that shaky governnient. I am referring here, of course, to the recently terminated 73-day strike involving the Railway Workers Union of Guatemala, and an American-owned company, the International Railways of Central America.
The strike was finally settled on March 16, and the ITF played a Liost significant role in reaching a fair and just solution to the problem.
I would like to say to you, Mr. Chairman, that I had the personal privilege of representing the ITF in this particular conflict, and that it was through my work and the work of other ITF representatives, in meeting with the President of Guatemala and members of the Cabinet, that we were able to resolve the problem to which an American company paid no attention, the problem which may have caused the very collapse of that government in a most difficult political situation.
Senator YARBOROUGH. There are reports of guerrilla activity in Guatemala at the present time, and have been for years; haven't there?
Mr. OTERO. Yes, sir; and they are still continuing.
Senator YARBOROUGH. If this paralyzing stike had not been settled, you think that might have been a strong contributing cause, perhaps, to the ultimate collapse of the government?
Mr. OTERO. Well, Mr. Chairman, I have written a full report of my activities in Guatemala which I will be very pleased to make available to you; and for the record I would like to say that this strike, which was prompted by the company, encouraged by the company, took into consideration the very difficult political situation existing in the country.
May I proceed, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. OTERO. In the field of developing a strong and mature labor leadership as opposed to Communist-dominated cliques or company unions, the ITF has been responsible for the mature leadership of unions being headed today in countries such as Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Indonesia, Senegal, Malaysia, the Philippines, among others.
The modest input of ITF human and financial resources in countries like Mexico has multiplied itself severalfold. In fact, today this program of self-help is beginning to pay off for the Mexican affiliates of the ITF, particularly the Railwaymen's Union is beginning to lend assistance to other ITF affiliates in Latin America.
This degree of achievement notwithstanding, the work yet to be done, Mr. Chairman, staggers the imagination. The problems confronting this type of activity also defy description. But yet, with such tremendous tasks at hand, with overwhelming odds against and with very little financial resources, very limited financial resources, the work of the ITF goes on.
To illustrate to this committee the problems facing this bold undertaking, I have selected the area of Latin America where I have personal experience, and where the ITF spends today more than in Asia and in Africa combined.
The challenge facing the ITF in Latin America, as presumably elsewhere in the developing areas of the world, is to awaken the workers from their age-long apathy, which was born of servitude, to the advantages of uniting actively for the promotion of their economic welfare.
In seeking to achieve this objective, the ITF must offer guidance to local and national union bodies in the essentials of union management and growth, the propagation of union values among the rank and file as well as among the unorganized, and the development of local and national leaders, and the equipping of these leaders and their organizations with the minimum educational and financial tools for insuring that they can do an effective job of developing trade unionism in their own interests and those of the communities in which they live.
It is, however, very unfortunate that major problems affecting the Latin countries of the Western Hemisphere have retarded the progress of democratic unionism.
The big problems facing the growth of democratic trade unionism in Latin America are:
(a) The military or quasi-military domination of society with attendant repression of such basic freedoms as the right of workers to organize, to bargain collectively, and to deny their labor by means of strike to achieve a decent living standard, and the right to educate the workers in the processes of democratic procedures.
(6) The attack by the international Communist movement upon new and unsteady union organizations and upon the masses of the unorganized workers to attain the political ends of that disreputable movement.
(c) The deeply entrenched oligarchy, both of national and foreign origin, which stubbornly refuses to modify its near-feudalist practices, thus enhancing unrest, hatred, and subversion.
(d.) And, finally, Mr. Chairman, very unfortunately, the ineptness and corruption plaguing several Latin American governments and countries.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Have you written a report on that latter point, too?
Mr. OTERO. I beg your pardon?
Senator YARBOROUGH. You have written a report on Guatemala. Have you prepared a written report on the last point?
Mr. OTERO. No, but I would be very pleased to do so.
Senator YARBOROUGH. I have a special interest in Latin America so I would like to see such reports.
Mr. OTERO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. OTERO. In face of such tremendous obstacles blocking the future of trade unionism, there is—and together with the hopes for improvement in other spheres of society, we must await the slow process of liberalization. In some happy instances this process of liberalization has been accelerated by universal popular revolution against the military, as in the case of Venezuela, and this instance, to its everlasting credit, the democratic trade union movement was in the vanguard of the movement toward liberalization.
Cuba, on the other hand, is a typical example of the existing danger of violent shifts from the extreme right to the extreme left. In other well-known instances, Paraguay, Haiti, and more lately Brazil and Argentina, the working men must suffer in patience.
This threat of continued domination of Latin American societies by the military is further compounded by a second problem, which is the very activities of the international Communist Party, which is bent upon achieving its political ends through subversion, bribery, and deception, for the Communist Party still pursues its nefarious designs with ominous success among the corruptible and naive people whom they seek out in the working classes, and the leaders in Latin America.
The obvious response to this threat of Communist infiltration in the labor movement in Latin America is not to issue an international appeal, but the approach is to reach to the very roots of the labor movement with the values and demonstrable results of democratic unionism to discredit the Communist impostors where they make their appeal, that is, among the illiterate and semi-illiterate workers, and to give these workers their hope of gaining dignity in their labor, economic security for their families, and mutual solidarity through their freely elected union representatives.
At this point, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say that the threat we face today in Latin America and in many other parts of the world, that of Communist advancement, will not be deterred by simply making speeches or by trying to make appeals. The problem that we confront today is a combination of hunger, frustration, despair, disease, and many others of the calamities which affect large masses of people, millions of people—in fact, one-third of the world's underdeveloped population, over 1 billion people, go to bed hungry every night.
So unless we are able to reach the masses, unless we are able to help these people to help themselves, to be able to reach above the present conditions in which they live and, therefore, earn a decent standard of living and to achieve dignity in their employment, and to feed their families, we will not be able to contain this ever-growing menace of international communism.
And, to compound this very problem, there is still the recalcitrant attitude of the business community in Latin America, including many U.S. firms, which continue and will continue their practices to ignore existing labor laws, to apply coercion and economic pressure to discourage trade unions from gaining strength, and in many instances, Mr. Chairman, we can document that many American companies, protected by military governments or in many so-called democratic coun