Person

Janet Shenk

Role:

Board member, former executive director, Arca Foundation

Janet Shenk is a board member and former executive director of the Arca Foundation, one of several left-of-center funding entities associated with the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune. Shenk is a former editor of the San Francisco-based social-democratic magazine Mother Jones.

She has also been active in labor union causes, working as a former special assistant to former AFL-CIO president John Sweeney. She also worked as executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, a labor union campaign against the retailer.

In the 1980s she was a supporter of a suspected communist insurrection against the government of El Salvador. She was also a speaker at Democratic Socialists of America event. [1]

1980s Radicalism

Janet Shenk focused on reporting about the civil war in El Salvador for the North American Congress on Latin America. She also led tours of activists to witness the impact of U.S. support for El Salvador’s government and alleged human rights abuses. [2]

In 1982, she co-wrote a book with Robert Armstrong, who was a Peace Corps member in El Salvador, called El Salvador: The Face of Revolution. The book argued for support of Soviet-backed rebels in El Salvador, claiming that the rebels enjoyed popular support of the people of El Salvador. It also criticized the U.S. backed government as a right-wing dictatorship. [3]

In 1983, the far-left pressure group Democratic Socialists of America held a conference called “Radical Alternatives for the 1980s: Conference on Education and Strategy for Progressives,” at which Shenk spoke. At the time, she was part of the “Socialist Scholars Conference.” [4]

Arca Foundation

Among the groups she took on a tour to El Salvador was the Arca Foundation’s board of directors. One of the projects of the Arca Foundation is opposition to U.S. foreign policy and support for communist regimes. [5]

In 1989, Shenk became executive director of the Arca Foundation. For Arca, Shenk worked to normalize relations with and end the U.S. trade embargo of Communist-ruled Cuba. She pushed for an on that country as well. She also worked to end U.S. intervention in Central America, despite the fact that other nations continued to promote their interests in that region. Finally, she worked to promote restrictions on campaign finance that became liberal-left crusade in the 1990s. [6]

In 1999, Shenk stepped down as executive director of the Arca Foundation; she sits on the board of directors for the organization to this day. [7]

Labor Union Work

In 1999, she became the special assistant to then-AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, whose election had moved the union federation from the Cold War center-left toward the Democratic Socialists of America and the far-left. [8] After working directly with Sweeney, she became the deputy director of Wal-Mart Watch, a labor union campaign targeting Walmart’s business practices. [9]

Even after leaving Wal-Mart Watch, Shenk remained a critic of Walmart’s business practices. She criticized a 2011 announcement by the retailer which would increase investment in women-owned businesses and non-profits targeted towards helping women. Shenk claimed the investment by Walmart would do little to nothing about how Walmart treats its employees and its suppliers treat their workers. [10]

Post-Labor Work

After working for labor unions, Shenk became executive director of the Panta Rhea Foundation, which is a left-wing foundation that works against corporations. [11]

She sits on the boards of left-wing think tank Demos and the American Prospect, a liberal policy and advocacy magazine. [12]

References

  1. Proyect, Louis. 2017. “Reflections On The DSA”. Counterpunch. https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/15/reflections-on-the-dsa. ^
  2. “Board & Staff”. 2019. The Arca Foundation. Accessed December 23. https://www.arcafoundation.org/about-us/board-staff/. ^
  3. Bonner, Raymond. 1982. “REVOLUTION WAS IN THE AIR”. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1982/10/17/books/revolution-was-in-the-air.html. ^
  4. Proyect, Louis. 2017. “Reflections On The DSA”. Counterpunch. https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/15/reflections-on-the-dsa/. ^
  5. “Board & Staff”. 2019. The Arca Foundation. Accessed December 23. https://www.arcafoundation.org/about-us/board-staff/. ^
  6. “Board & Staff”. 2019. The Arca Foundation. Accessed December 23. https://www.arcafoundation.org/about-us/board-staff/. ^
  7. “Board & Staff”. 2019. The Arca Foundation. Accessed December 23. https://www.arcafoundation.org/about-us/board-staff/. ^
  8. Phillips, James. “From Meany to Sweeney: Labor’s Leftward Tilt.” The Heritage Foundation, October 4, 1996. https://www.heritage.org/jobs-and-labor/report/meany-sweeney-labors-leftward-tilt. ^
  9. “Board & Staff”. 2019. The Arca Foundation. Accessed December 23. https://www.arcafoundation.org/about-us/board-staff/. ^
  10. “Walmart Initiatives To Support Women Draw Praise, Boos”. 2011. The Salt Lake Tribune. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=52585326&itype=cmsid. ^
  11.      “Walmart Initiatives To Support Women Draw Praise, Boos”. 2011. The Salt Lake Tribune. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=52585326&itype=cmsid. ^
  12. “Board & Staff”. 2019. The Arca Foundation. Accessed December 23. https://www.arcafoundation.org/about-us/board-staff/. ^

Connected Organizations

  1. American Prospect (Non-profit)
    Board Member
  2. Arca Foundation (Non-profit)
    Board Member; Former Executive Director
  3. Demos (Non-profit)
    Board Member
  4. Mother Jones (Non-profit)
    Former Editor
  5. North American Congress on Latin America (Non-profit)
    Former Co-Director
  6. Panta Rhea Foundation (Non-profit)
    Senior Program Officer
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