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History Vault: Labor Unions in the U.S., 1862-1974: Knights of Labor, AFL, CIO, and AFL-CIO

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Labor Unions in the U.S., 1862-1974: Knights of Labor, AFL, CIO, and AFL-CIO   (Module 39)

Unique, important documentation on the growth and transformation of four major labor organizations takes history, business and other research topics in exciting new directions.

In the 19th century, the Knights of Labor was the first national labor force to recruit women and African Americans as a matter of policy, to organize throughout the country, and to attempt to unify industrial and agrarian workers. This module presents the papers of executives Terence V. Powderly and John W. Hayes, which span the life of this powerful organization.
In 1886, the founding convention of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) elected five men to lead an organization of fewer than 200,000 members. By 1955, a committee headed by George Meany unified the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which today numbers 5+ million and is a powerful political lobby. AFL records illuminate years of strikes and boycotts, competition with rival organizations, political developments, antitrust laws, pensions, and the direct election of U.S. senators; plus internal AFL matters such as membership, relations with international and local unions, and state labor federations.
The CIO was at the center of labor activism from 1935 to 1955 – years characterized by mass organizing, nationwide strikes, and bitter ideological and political conflict. The records in this module consist of Minutes of the Executive Board of the CIO and the papers of Adolph Germer, a longtime member of the United Mine Workers and a leader in the formation of the CIO. Closely related are the papers of John Mitchell, president of the United Mine Workers and a vice-president of the AFL. Records that document the AFL-CIO in this module consist of State Labor Proceedings for 1885-1974 with the 1955-1974 portion of the records pertaining to the AFL-CIO.

Module Highlights