The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was established in 1945 to replace the International Federation of Trade Unions. Its mission was to bring together trade unions across the world in a single international organization, much like the United Nations. After a number of Western trade unions left it in 1949, as a result of disputes over support for the Marshall Plan, to form the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the WFTU was made up primarily of unions affiliated with or sympathetic to Communist parties. In the context of the Cold War, the WFTU was often portrayed as a Soviet front organization. A number of those unions, including those from Yugoslavia and China, left later when their governments had ideological differences with the Soviet Union.
The WFTU has declined precipitously in the past twenty years since the fall of the communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, with many of its former constituent unions joining the ICFTU. In January 2006 it moved its headquarters from Prague, Czech Republic to Athens, Greece and now focuses on organizing regional federations of unions in the Third World, campaigning against imperialism, racism, poverty, environmental degradation and exploitation of workers under capitalism and in defense of full employment, social security, health protection, and trade union rights. The WFTU continues to devote much of its energy to organizing conferences, issuing statements and producing educational materials.
As part of its efforts to advance its international agenda, the WFTU develops working partnerships with national and industrial trade unions worldwide as well as with a number of international and regional trade union organizations including the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU), the Permanent Congress of Trade Union Unity of Latin America (CPUSTAL), and the General Federation of Trade Unions of CIS.
The WFTU holds consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, the ILO, UNESCO, FAO, and other UN agencies. It maintains permanent missions in New York, Geneva, and Rome.
The following Trade Unions Internationals are constituted within the WFTU:
- Trade Unions International of Agriculture, Food, Commerce, Textile, and Allied Industries
- Trade Unions International of Public and Allied Employees
- Trade Unions International of Energy, Metal, Chemical, Oil and Allied Industries
- Trade Unions International of Transport Workers
- Trade Unions International of Building, Wood and Building Materials Industries
- World Federation of Teachers Unions
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