Memorandum by the Second Secretary of Embassy and Consul in Panama (Collins)92 to the Assistant Chief of the Division of Central America and Panama Affairs (Wise)

Embassy’s despatch No. 2686 of October 21, 194691 reports on an Associated Press despatch from Chicago, dated October 20, 1946, to the effect that the American Federation of Labor adopted a resolution during its Chicago convention demanding preference for United States citizens in employment in the Canal Zone. It is believed that the resolution actually called for “preference to United States citizens [Page 1164] in office positions and work for laborers, skilled and semiskilled workers in the Canal Zone” and that the resolution also recommended that in the future all positions in the Canal Zone be given only to citizens of the United States. A question as to whether such legislation would contravene the treaty of 1936 is raised.

In a press conference of October 23, 1946 President Jiménez of Panama attacked the American Federation of Labor declaration. He stated that it was absurd that Panamanians are considered foreigners in their own country, referring to the Panamanian claim that the Canal Zone is after all Panamanian territory. President Jimenez told the press that the resolution was completely contrary to the treaty of 1936 and that it was unquestionably inspired by the Metal Trades Council of the Canal Zone, an affiliate of the A.F. of L., which President Jiménez said “has always wished us ill.”

The Embassy recommended in despatch No. 2702 of October 23, 194695 that if the press release was accurate, the attention of the Department of Labor be called to the fact that the action contemplated would unquestionably contravene the 1936 treaty. Ambassador Hines felt that prompt steps should be taken to reassure Panama on this point.

As might be expected, there was considerable newspaper publicity to this resolution in Panama. One of the deputies to the National Assembly made a public statement and the Star & Herald of October 22 and 23, 1946 carried editorials on this subject. On October 29, 1946 La Nation, however, carried a report from Washington to the effect that W. C. Hushing of the A.F. of L. declared that the A.F. of L. did not mean to place Panamanians at any disadvantage in the Canal Zone.

In view of the fact that nothing official has been received from the Government of Panama on this point, it is not believed that any further Departmental action is indicated.

  1. Mr. Collins was temporarily in Washington.
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  3. Not printed.