Workers' Force

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FO logo.png
Full nameGeneral Confederation of Labor - Workers' Force
Native nameConfédération Générale du Travail - Force Ouvrière
AffiliationITUC, ETUC, TUAC
Key peoplePascal Pavageau, secretary general
Office locationParis, France

The General Confederation of Labor - Workers' Force (French: Confédération Générale du Travail - Force Ouvrière, or simply Force Ouvrière, FO), is one of the five major union confederations in France. In terms of following, it is the third behind the CGT and the CFDT.

Force Ouvrière was founded in 1948 by former members of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) who denounced the dominance of the French Communist Party over that federation. Various sources, including former CIA officials, have suggested that this split was instigated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and that FO had received funds from the CIA through the American Federation of Labor (AFL)'s Irving Brown.

FO is a member of the European Trade Union Confederation. Its leader is Pascal Pavageau since April 2018.


After World War II, members of the French Communist Party attained considerable influence within the CGT, controlling 21 of its 30 federations. Senior figures such as Robert Bothereau and the former secretary general, Léon Jouhaux, opposed this development. These opponents denounced Communist influence as a threat to the independent position of trade unions, a principle enshrined in the 1906 Charte d'Amiens. They founded a paper, Force ouvrière.

In 1947, a general strike, fought against the backdrop of the developing Cold War, divided the CGT. The Communist ministers were excluded from the government led by Paul Ramadier, a Socialist. In this context, the internal CGT opposition created a new trade-union confederation, called FO. The majority of its founders were from the socialist ranks.

In February 1958 the African branches of FO became an independent organization, Confédération Africaine des Syndicats Libres-FO.[1][2]

In the 1960s, when André Bergeron became leader of the Confederation, the links between FO and the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) became distended. Indeed, if Bergeron was an SFIO member, he was also the "main partner" of the employers and the right-wing governments. In this, FO presided the social security offices. Besides, it welcomed Conservatives and Far-Left, notably members of the Trotskyist Internationalist Communist Organization. The hostility to the CGT and to the French Communist Party is the cement of the confederation.

In the 1970s, FO leaders were sceptical about the Socialist strategy of alliance with the Communist Party. Then, they criticized the nomination of Communist ministers in 1981. After François Mitterrand's election, FO presented like the only independent trade-union confederation.

In 1989, Marc Blondel was elected leader of FO, against the will of Bergeron. He wanted to preserve the independence of the confederation. Supported by the Trotskyist minority, he adopted a more combative attitude. In this, he participated in the 1995 social conflict against Alain Juppé's plans for welfare reform, and improved relations with the CGT. In consequence, FO lost the precedence of social security offices for the benefit of the Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail.

In 2003, Blondel called for a general strike against the plan of pensions reforms. Then, he let his function to Jean-Claude Mailly. FO participated in the 2006 campaign against the Contrat première embauche. In April 2018, Pascal Pavageau, which presents himself as being part of the historical and traditional Workers' Force trend (independence of trade unions towards the political parties) became the new secretary general.

General Secretaries[edit]

CIA involvement[edit]

The group's ties with the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were leaked in 1967 by Thomas Braden, a former director of covert operations for the agency. In his expose on The Saturday Evening Post, Braden wrote of the CGT strike: "Into this crisis stepped [Jay] Lovestone and his assistant, Irving Brown. With funds from Dubinsky's union, they organized Force Ouvrière, a non-Communist union. When they ran out of money, they appealed to the CIA. Thus began the secret subsidy of free trade unions which soon spread to Italy. Without that subsidy, postwar history might have gone very differently." American influence was never total, and there were disputes between FO leadership and the American representatives (for example, over French colonialism).[3]

The Reagan administration continued support to the organization through the National Endowment for Democracy.[citation needed]

Professional elections[edit]

FO won 15.81% of the vote in the employees' college during the 2008 professional elections. This is below FO's 18.28% result in 2002. Its highest ever result was 20.55% in 1997.


The following federations are affiliated:

Federation Abbreviation Founded Membership (2002)[4]
Book Federation FO Livre 1949
Chemistry Federation Fédéchimie 1948 15,000
Federation of Arts, Entertainment, Audiovisual, Press, Communication and Multimedia Fasap
Federation of Employees and Managers FEC 1893 65,000
Federation of Equipment, Environment, Transport and Services
Federation of General State Administration FAGE 30,000
Federation of Public Service and Health Service Staff FSPS 1948 135,000
Federation of Workers' and Travellers' Representatives
Federation of Workers in Hairdressing, Beauty and Perfumery FO-Coiffure
FO Communication FO com 1948 50,000
FO Construction FO Construction 1948 25,000
FO Defence FO Défense 1948 30,000
FO Finances FO Finances 1947 45,000
FO Metals FO Metaux 1948 50,000
General Federation FG-FO
General Federation of Agriculture, Food, Tobacco and Related Services Workers FGTA 1975 45,000
General Union of Police
National Federation of Education, Culture and Vocational Training FNEC FP 1948
National Federation of Energy and Mines FNEM 2000
National Federation of Pharmacy
National Federation of Social Action FNAS 1972
National Federation of Transport and Logistics UNCP
Trade Union Federation of Railway Workers FO-Cheminots
Union of Managers and Engineers FO-Cadres

The General Federation of Public Servants brings together those federations representing civil servants.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wallerstein, Immanuel Maurice.Africa: The Politics of Independence and Unity. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. p. 188
  2. ^ Meynaud, Jean, and Anisse Salah Bey. Trade Unionism in Africa. Lond: Methuen, 1967. p. 166
  3. ^ Wall, Irwin M. (1991). "Americanizing the French". The United States and the making of postwar France, 1945-1954 (Paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 109. ISBN 9780521402170. Retrieved 4 August 2012. But the judgment of Caffrey was that the bitter political strikes of 1947 gave rise to FO, and if the Americans were midwives in its birth, they were unable to affect its subsequent growth and development. Almost at once stinging critiques appeared of FO's internal operations in American Embassy reports.
  4. ^ "Force ouvrière en bref". Institut superieur du travail. Retrieved 29 April 2020.