What was the american federation of labor

what was the american federation of labor

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

Federal Records and African American History (Summer , Vol. 29, No. 2) By James Gilbert Cassedy The records of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) have been, and will remain, indispensable to the study of African American labor history. Thirty NARA record groups (approximately 19, cubic feet of documentary material) document the activities of federal. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is an American labor union representing over , employees of the federal government, about 5, employees of the District of Columbia, and a few hundred private sector employees, mostly in and around federal facilities. AFGE is the largest union for civilian, non-postal federal employees and the largest union for District of .

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The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is the largest trade union of public employees in the United States. It represents million public sector employees and retirees, including health care workers, corrections officers, sanitation workers, police officers, firefighters, and childcare providers. Founded in Madison, Wisconsin, in , AFSCME is part of. Paid for by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, L St., NW, Washington, DC, Lee Saunders, President. Not authorized by any candidate or . American Farm Bureau Federation is the unified national voice of agriculture, working through our grassroots organizations to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans and to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities.

Thirty NARA record groups approximately 19, cubic feet of documentary material document the activities of federal agencies whose core missions pertained to labor and labor management relations. There are also many other record groups that contain material of interest to students of American labor history even though they document the activities of federal agencies whose primary concern was not the resolution of labor disputes or the control of labor management relations.

Locating records that document the role of African Americans in American labor history can be difficult because the federal agencies and offices that created these records arranged their indexes and files by name of institutions such as the name of the company or the name of the union involved in a controversy. This overview briefly traces the growth of black labor relations and provides an introduction to the research value of several NARA record groups.

African Americans are known to have participated in labor actions before the Civil War. In the early nineteenth century, African Americans played a dominant role in the caulking trade, and there is documentation of a strike by black caulkers at the Washington Navy Yard in At the end of the Civil War, ex-slaves had to adjust to freedom and a new labor system.

The National Archives contains millions of documents concerning this transition. Luckily, researchers can avail themselves of Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, a multivolume documentary editing project. Other record groups are less obvious sources of information. The General Records of Department of State RG 59 and the General Records of the Department of Justice RG 60 contain documentation of the black dock workers in Pensacola, Florida, who, in the winter of , organized a Workingman's Association and successfully defended their jobs against Canadian longshoreman brought in by dock owners.

The formation of American trade unions increased during the early Reconstruction period. Black and white workers shared a heightened interest in trade union organization, but because trade unions organized by white workers generally excluded blacks, black workers began to organize on their own. This union was a counterpart to the white National Labor Union.

The assembly sent a petition to Congress requesting direct intervention in the alleviation of the "condition of the colored workers of the southern States" by subdividing the public lands of the South into forty-acre farms and providing low-interest loans to black farmers. Congress evidently showed little interest in either petition. Five years later the disputed presidential election of led to the Compromise of and the selection of Rutherford B. Ferguson decision in , giving official recognition to the "separate but equal" doctrine, the official relegation of blacks to second-class status was complete.

House of Representatives RG , and the U. Senate RG 46 will reveal volumes of information concerning the lives of African Americans during this period. A small sampling of these reports and publications includes the U.

Bureau of the Census, Bulletin No. Du Bois provided some of the statistical data on black labor to the Bureau of Labor and wrote reports for the Census Bureau. During the Great Strike of , for instance, rallies and marches in St. Louis, Louisville, and other cities brought together white and black workers in support of the common rights of workingmen.

By Eugene Debs, leader of the American Railway Union in a strike against the Pullman Company, was unable to convince members of his union to accept black railroaders. Blacks in turn served as strikebreakers for the Pullman Company and for the owners of Chicago meatpacking companies against whom stockyard workers struck in sympathy with the Pullman Company employees.

In white employees of the Georgia Railroad, represented by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, walked off their jobs, demanding that lower-paid black firemen be replaced by higher-paid whites. A Federal Board of Arbitration, appointed under the provisions of the Erdman Act of , ruled two to one against the Brotherhood, stating that blacks had to be paid equal pay for equal work, thereby eliminating the financial advantage of hiring blacks.

Erdman docket file 20, the Georgia Railroad Co. The National Mediation Board was created by the amended Railway Act of June 21, , to mediate railroad and, later, airline disputes. The board inherited the functions of an assortment of boards and panels created to mediate railroad disputes. The records of the National Mediation Board and its predecessors date from to and consist of 1, cubic feet of records. The creation of the various federal railroad arbitration boards is significant, for it marks the beginning of federal efforts during the Progressive Era to stabilize and rationalize labor relations.

An act of March 4, , upgraded the U. Department of Labor to cabinet rank and authorized the secretary of labor, William Wilson, to act as a mediator or to appoint commissioners of conciliation in labor disputes.

The Records of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service RG , , contain approximately 1, cubic feet of information. This material includes an index with four sections: a subject index with perhaps seven hundred topics; a geographic index; a name index arranged by name of person, organization, or firm; and a name index to the conciliators and arbitrators. Approximately , dispute and arbitration case files are indexed.

The files may range in size from one to several thousand pages and include intermediate and closing reports, agreements and other documentation of settlement, awards, and related correspondence which may include union and company documents, transcripts of testimony, and newspaper articles. A reasonable estimate of the total number of extant Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service files pertaining to African American labor is nine thousand to eighteen thousand.

During the Great Migration of , over one million blacks moved from the south to the north in search of better lives. It is conservatively estimated that , left the South during the two-year period of to take advantage of a labor shortage created in the wake of the First World War. Between and the number of blacks employed in industry nearly doubled from , to , The U.

The office, originally designed to help mobilize the black work force for the war effort, developed into a rudimentary economic employment opportunity agency. Except for the postbellum Freedmen's Bureau, the division was the first agency of its kind in the nation. The security apparatus watched over the African American labor situation and kept tabs on individuals such as A.

The Records of the United States Coal Commission RG 68 , , document the efforts of the federal government to control upheavals in the coal mining industry caused by the end of the war. The United Mine Workers of America Union was light years ahead of other AFL unions in its organization of black miners, but white miners and employers, however, more often than not shared fundamental ideas of black inferiority. Despite the uneven relationship between black and white coal miners, a substantial degree of solidarity arose among miners of all colors and nationalities.

The Records of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service RG contain a substantial amount of information regarding black and white miners during these postwar years. In A.

Randolph ultimately succeeded in his quest in and in the process became a leader in the fight against racism in the workplace and the nation. Railroad Administration RG 14 document the efforts of African American railroad workers and their unions to procure satisfactory compensation and job security. The Roaring Twenties came to a crashing halt with the Great Depression. Seeking ways to alleviate the massive unemployment, President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal advisers sought ways to put people back to work and to increase purchasing power.

Mary McLeod Bethune. These records span the depression, World War II, and postwar eras. Housing Act of The act authorized a system of loans, grants, and subsidies to assist local housing authorities develop low-rent housing projects. Local Housing Authority boards from across the nation sent in reports detailing their progress toward setting aside a portion of the public housing construction work for African Americans. The portion was to be based on the size of the black population in a particular locale.

Included among these twenty thousand pages of records are a number of letters from local labor unions providing information concerning black laborers in skilled and nonskilled positions or attempting to explain the lack thereof. New Dealers sought to institute the collective bargaining process by guaranteeing labor the right to organize and to designate representatives for collective bargaining purposes under the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board.

In no more than 50, out of 1,, black workers engaged in transportation, extraction of minerals, or manufacturing were members of any trade union. Furthermore, the AFL remained a conservative organization. A large number of member unions did not permit African Americans to join their ranks, and the AFL leadership showed little apparent interest in organizing black and white laborers in mass-production industries. The organization in of the Congress of Industrial Organizations CIO , which sought to organize industrial workers regardless of race or ethnic background, contributed to an alleviation of the historic conflict between African Americans and trade unions.

Thousands of African American workers joined unions, and much of this growth is documented in the Records of the National Labor Relations Board RG 25, approximately 5, cubic feet. A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of American agricultural unionism noted that "labor unionism in agriculture has been a rather anomalous and transitory development in the American economy.

It has been composed of literally hundreds of organizations that were sporadic, scattered, and short lived. Agricultural workers were further hampered in their efforts at unionization because of their low social status and political impotence, public perception of the traditional family farm, and agriculture laborers who had more "solicitude of their employers" than industrial workers had.

The STFU was founded in in eastern Arkansas, an area of large cotton plantations worked by sharecroppers and owned in many cases by absentee owner-investors. Immediately after World War I, the collapse of cotton prices led to strained landlord-tenant relations as planters sought to shift some losses to tenants by manipulating accounts and, in some cases, outright fraud.

A group of African Americans organized the Progressive Farmers and Householders Union to protect themselves against exploitation and "advanc[e] the intellectual, material, moral, spiritual, and financial interests of the Negro race. Economic conditions for the sharecroppers of eastern Arkansas did improve slightly during the s, but with the depression of the s, conditions were again ripe for agricultural labor revolt.

Sharecroppers were faced with declining earnings, increased farm mechanization, and the Agricultural Adjustment Act of , which worked against their interests. One way the AAA sought to raise the income of farmers was through a series of allotments and subsidies prescribing the amount of land that could be placed in production and paying farmers not to farm additional land.

In Arkansas, these committees were dominated by white plantation owners. These owners often used the local committees to circumscribe the common law rights of tenants and sharecroppers, did not pay sharecroppers their fair share of government compensation payments, and altered the sharecroppers' status to wage hands to disqualify them from receiving government payments.

Posing a direct challenge to the established order in Arkansas, in two years the union boasted twenty-five thousand members, which included former Ku Klux Klansmen as well as survivors of the "Elaine Massacre," and by the end of claimed thirty-one thousand members in seven states.

Phillip Randolph, and through the strategic use of strikes and public demonstrations under the leadership of Harry L. Mitchell, the STFU was able to directly alleviate some of the oppressive living and working conditions of its members.

Perhaps more important, however, was the attention it focused on the living and working conditions of tenant farmers and sharecroppers. The efforts of this committee helped lay the foundations for the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act, which established the Farm Security Administration and the Resettlement Administration, agencies that developed programs to assist migrant workers and authorized low-interest loans to farm tenants, sharecroppers, and farm laborers.

Mechanism within the cotton industry continued to increase, decreasing the need for tenant farmers. Approaching war clouds at the end of the s shifted the focus of the U. Although the STFU was never fully integrated most of its locals were all black or all white , it did leave an indelible mark upon the United States and symbolized for many what labor could accomplish if racial identity could be ignored. The s would be a decade, however, when African Americans would achieve their greatest economic gains, in terms of real advances and in relation to whites, since the Civil War.

The advance of African Americans in American industry during World War II was the result of the nation's wartime emergency need for workers and soldiers. In the National War Labor Board issued an order abolishing pay differentials based on race, pointing out, "America needs the Negro. Early in , A. Philip Randolph announced the creation of a March on Washington Committee, promising that unless President Roosevelt issued an executive order ending racial discrimination in hiring by unions and employers and eliminating segregation in the armed forces, ten thousand Americans would march through Washington demanding an end to segregation.

The number of threatened marchers grew from 10, to 50,, and then to , Despite the entreaties of Roosevelt and his intermediaries, Randolph made it clear that nothing less than a presidential executive order would stop the march.

Roosevelt gave in and issued Executive Order After asserting that national unity was being impaired by discrimination, the executive order declared it to be the "duty of employers and of labor organizations to provide for the full and equitable participation of all workers in defense industries, without discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin. The committee formulated and interpreted policies to combat racial and religious discrimination in employment; received, investigated, and adjusted complaints of such discrimination; and assisted government agencies, employers, and labor unions with the problems of discrimination.

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