- American Federation of Labor
- (AFL)A federation of autonomous, craft-based trade unions formed in 1886 by Samuel Gompers and Adolph Strasser, the AFL was conservative and nonpolitical in outlook and largely excluded unskilled immigrant and black workers. Nonetheless, by 1910 it was established as the leading union organization and had a membership of more than 2 million. Although membership doubled during World War I, the organization was unable to consolidate upon wartime advances in the face of employer resistance in the more conservative 1920s. Following a series of defeats, union membership declined once more and by 1933 was only 2.3 million.The AFL maintained its conservative outlook with regard to unskilled and immigrant workers, and this approach continued when William Green succeeded Gompers in 1924. The continued reluctance to organize industrial workers led the industrial-based unions headed by John L. Lewis, Sidney Hillman, and David Dubinsky to form the Committee of Industrial Organizations in 1934. In 1938, they broke away to form the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). As a consequence of both organizing drives and the recognition afforded by the National Labor Relations Act, AFL membership increased. With full employment achieved during World War II and the “maintenance of membership” agreement, the AFL increased in membership and by 1945 had more than 6 million members. Although stronger and more closely associated with the Democratic administrations during and after the war, it was not able to prevent the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. During the Cold War, it was staunchly anticommunist and assisted in establishing noncommunist organizations in postwar Europe. Green was succeeded after his death in 1952 by George Meany, and three years later the AFL merged with the CIO to form the AFL-CIO.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.