The New International Encyclopædia/Labor, American Federation of
LABOR, American Federation of. A non-secret confederation of trade unions, having for its object the improvement in the conditions and wages of labor; the establishment of self-governing unions of wage-workers in every trade and legitimate occupation, where none now exists; the formation of public opinion by the agencies of platform, press, and legislation; and the furtherance of a civilization based upon industrial progress, by securing to the toilers a reduction in the hours of labor. The American Federation of Labor originated in an attempt to found a general organization of American workingmen, distinct from the Knights of Labor, on a trade-union basis. A preliminary convention was called by the Knights of Industry and the Amalgamated Labor Union—the latter composed largely of seceders from the Knights of Labor—and met in Terre Haute, Ind., August 2, 1881. The first convention officially recognized as such met at Pittsburg in November, 1881, at which the name of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada was adopted. This federation merged itself with an independent trade-union congress held at Columbus, Ohio, December 8, 1886, when the present name and organization were adopted. On January 1, 1903, there were affiliated with the American Federation of Labor 101 national or international unions, 26 State federations, 475 city centrals, and 1825 local unions. In May, 1902, the secretary estimated the aggregate membership of affiliated unions at 1,100,000, excluding duplicates. Among the oldest and most influential of the affiliated unions are the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the International Typographical Union of North America, the Cigar Makers' International Union, and the Granite Cutters' National Union of the United States of America. The largest affiliated union is the United Mine Workers of America. The American Federation of Labor is growing very rapidly, about 800,000 members having been added from 1897 to 1902. It has practically taken the place of its old rival, the Knights of Labor (q.v.).