What it is
- The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial
Organizations-usually referred to as the AFL-CIO-is a
- voluntary federation of 90 national and international
labor unions in the United States.
- At root, the AFL-CIO is people, 14.1 million
workers in occupations as diverse as America itself-actors and entertainers,
- construction workers, barbers and hairdressers, steelworkers,
machinists, bus drivers, railroad workers, telephone operators,
- newspaper reporters, television camera crews, sales clerks,
garment workers, engineers, janitors, printers, school teachers,
- farm and cannery workers, auto workers, post office clerks
and letter carriers and many more.
- In nearly every field of human endeavor, workers
have formed unions to bargain collectively with their employers, striving
- improve their lot by achieving just wages and working
- In turn, these unions formed the AFL-CIO to
represent them in the creation and execution of broad national and international
- policies and in coordinating a wide range of joint activities.
- The 90 affiliated unions of the AFL-CIO are
made up of more than 45,000 local unions, through which day-to-day
- relationships are conducted with several hundred thousand
employers. These local unions have negotiated more than 130,000
- collective bargaining contracts that help give the American
worker a measure of economic security by spelling out rates of pay,
- hours of work, overtime, hospitalization and medical
benefits, vacations, holidays, seniority, the handling of grievances,
- pensions and much else.
- Most of these contracts-98 percent, according
to government statistics-run their course without a strike or other interruption
- work. They have become part of the nation's economic
foundation upon which its workers have built the highest living standard
- in the world.
- The AFL-CIO itself, however, does no bargaining.
It is not a union, but a union of unions.
- It was established on December 5, 1955, when
the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial
- Organizations merged into a single trade union center.
This merger ended a 20-
- year split in the ranks of the American labor
movement growing out of differences over the form trade union organization
- The merger recognized the principle that both
craft and industrial unions are appropriate, equal and necessary as methods
- union organization.
- The merged Federation came into being with
a legacy of effective, practical, democratic trade unionism dating back
- formation in 1881 of the Federation of Organized Trades
and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, which five years
- later evolved into the AFL.
- Each member union of the AFL-CIO remains autonomous,
conducting its own affairs in the manner determined by its own
- members. Each has its own headquarters, officers and
staff. Each decides its own economic policies, carries on its own
- contract negotiations, sets its own dues and provides
its own membership services.
- Each of the 90 affiliated unions is free to
withdraw at any time. But through its voluntary participation, it plays
a role in
- establishing overall policies for the American labor
movement, which in turn advances the interests of every union.
- The AFL-CIO serves its constituent unions
- Speaking for the whole labor movement before Congress
and other branches of government.
- Representing American labor in world affairs,
through its participation in international labor bodies and through direct
- contact with the central labor organizations of free
countries throughout the world.
- Helping to organize the unorganized workers
of the United States.
- Coordinating such activities as community
services, political education and voter registration for greater effectiveness.
- While retaining control over their own affairs,
member unions have ceded a degree of authority to the AFL-CIO in certain
- matters. These include internal disputes. Each union
has agreed to submit certain types of disputes with other affiliated unions
- the mediating and judicial processes of the AFL-CIO.
Affiliated unions have also agreed to follow a procedure to resolve
- disagreements over organizing, determine responsibilities
and set guidelines for organizing drives.
- Back to the Preamble