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American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations

afl cio union unions

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), powerful federation of labor unions created in 1955 by the merger of the AFL and CIO. Over 100 constituent unions in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Panama represent about 15 million members. A national president, secretary-treasurer, and vice-presidents make up the executive council, which enforces policy decisions made at biennial conventions attended by several thousand delegates.

The organization's main objectives are more pay, shorter working hours, and better working conditions for employees, obtained by union-management agreements that preserve industrial harmony and prosperity. Each affiliated union conducts its own collective bargaining and determines much of its own policy. The AFL-CIO lobbies on such issues as social welfare, conservation, education, and international problems, and has backed political candidates. The AFL, founded in 1886 under the leadership of Samuel Gompers, originally comprised only craft unions, excluding unskilled and semiskilled workers, whose numbers multiplied as mass production increased in the early 1900s. To cater to these workers, AFL dissidents in 1935 formed the Committee for Industrial Organization, later the Congress of Industrial Organizations, led by John L. Lewis. Laws hostile to organized labor led to the cooperation between and, in 1955, the merger of the AFL and CIO, with George Meany (head of AFL) as president. Despite the union membership of a large number of women, it was only in 1980 that a woman, Joyce Miller, was named to the AFL-CIO executive council.

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