American Federation of Labor


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American Federation of Labor

 

(AFL), a trade union organization in the USA, in existence during 1881–1955. It was called the Federation of Organized Trade Unions of the USA and Canada until 1886, when it became the AFL.

The AFL primarily united the qualified upper stratum of the working class. The trade unions of the AFL were basically organized around a skilled handicraft which hindered the unification of workers in a particular enterprise or an entire industry. During its first years the AFL played an important role in the battle for the eight-hour working day. However, as a result of the politics espoused by right-wing professional leaders—S. Gompers and others—the AFL had already been transformed into an antisocialist, conservative organization by the end of the 19th century. The leaders of the AFL made it difficult in many ways for nonqualified workers, especially Negroes and also immigrants, to enter the trade unions. The right-wing leadership of the AFL pursued a policy of class collaboration with employers, opposed independent participation of the working class in political struggles, and supported the internal and external policies of the rulers of the USA on the most important issues. After the victory of the October Revolution in Russia, the leadership of the AFL adopted a position extremely hostile to Soviet Russia and encouraged the intervention of the USA against the Soviet republic. The leaders of the AFL opposed the creation of the World Federation of Trade Unions (1945) and then took an active part in organizing the dissident International Conference of Free Trade Unions.

In 1955 the AFL (with approximately 10 million members) merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations to form a professional amalgamation, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “Sekretariu ‘Ligi sotsialisticheskoi propagandy,’ “ Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27.
Lenin, V. I. “Detskaia bolezn’ ‘levizny’ v kommunizme.” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 41.
Zubok, L. I. Ocherk istorii SSA. Moscow, 1956. Pages 90–93.
Foner, P. Istoriia rabochego dvizheniia v SSA, vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1949–69. (Translated from English.)
Askol’dova, S. M. Nachalo massovogo rabochego dvizheniia v SSA. Moscow, 1966.

L. F. KHITROV

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However, controversy with another national labor body, the Knights of Labor, created the conditions for a true national federation of trade unions to emerge in 1886-the American Federation of Labor.
Gompers' papers, which are now beginning to appear in a major letterpress edition, testify powerfully to the sure hand with which he shaped the American Federation of Labor.
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Its socialist rhetoric frightened the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and internal disagreements concerning attitudes to Communists provoked a crisis and resulted in a split with the Communists who formed the Red International that was influenced by the Sov iet Union.
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The book is highly critical of the part played by the most influential labour bodies of the time: the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), the British Trade Unions Congress (TUC), and the International Trade Secretariats.
Originating im 1888, the IAM, the only international union with roots in the American South, experienced the typical problems associated with early American Federation of Labor craft organizations: economic fluctuations, wars, dual unionism, jurisdictional disputes, radicalism, internal dissention, and, of course, antiunion employers.
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Initially, the United Electrical Workers unsuccessfully sought a charter from the American Federation of Labor.

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