National Labor Federation

A shadowy communist group operating under the guise of worker support, entangled in cult-like secrecy and controversy.

The National Labor Federation (NATLFED) emerged in the early 1970s, founded by Gino Perente, a figure shrouded in mystery and controversy. Despite its name suggesting a labor union orientation, NATLFED is neither a traditional labor union nor a straightforward community support organization. It is, according to critics and some former participants, a front for a more clandestine operation—the Communist Party, United States of America (Provisional Wing) or CPUSA(PW), also established by Perente.

At its core, NATLFED comprises a network of community associations, known as “entities,” that claim to organize workers who are typically excluded from collective bargaining protections under U.S. labor law. These entities operate across various locations, maintaining a very low profile and often escaping public scrutiny. Their work, as described in their literature and by some local observers, includes providing emergency assistance such as food, clothing, medical and dental care, legal advice, child care, and job referrals to members of working-class neighborhoods​​.

Despite these seemingly benign objectives, the organization has been criticized for its opaque nature, lack of transparency, and allegations of exploiting its volunteers. Its association with the CPUSA(PW) raises further concerns, painting a picture of an organization with deeper political motivations than its outward mission suggests. The CPUSA(PW) itself is described as a secretive communist party without any public activities, publications, or openly acknowledged members, almost all of whom are reportedly full-time volunteers for NATLFED entities​​.

The criticism extends beyond organizational secrecy to the impact and effectiveness of NATLFED’s community work. For instance, officials from County Health Departments have reported never encountering NATLFED organizers in the expected contexts, nor have they met migrant workers who benefited from the organization’s programs. This contrasts with claims by some attendees of NATLFED-related events who assert receiving assistance. However, the connections between these community efforts and the overarching goals of NATLFED, as well as the existence and influence of Perente, remain elusive and subject to debate among critics and supporters alike​​.

NATLFED’s operations have attracted attention not only for their community outreach efforts but also for their controversial methods of recruiting and retaining volunteers. Idealistic individuals drawn to the organization’s purported mission of helping the poor and advocating for worker rights are reportedly subjected to intense work schedules, indoctrination via taped speeches by Gino Perente, and isolation from their families. This has led to allegations of cult-like behavior and comparisons with other high-control groups. The organization’s history includes instances of controversy, such as the discovery of a cache of automatic rifles during a police raid on NATLFED headquarters in 1996, which ex-members claimed were intended to impress recruits with the imminence of armed revolution​​.

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