Background and Overview

American Federation of Labor was founded in 1886, in Columbus, Ohio by Samuel Gompers( It was originally The Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions and was formed in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (Ibid). Its leaders were from both the United States and Canada and in its first years had around fifty thousand members (Ibid). Many of its members were former members of the Knights of Labor who were not content with the Knights of Labor's policies (Ibid). Under Gompers leadership the AFL became the largest labor union organization in the United States ( The AFL originally only allowed skilled workers to join and it initially rejected women, African American, and other racial minorities (Ibid). Gompers was a supporter of the use of strikes; however he preferred to obtain success through peaceful negotiations (Ibid). Gompers also did not want the AFL to be in the political arena, as this could result in business owners becoming offended, and ultimately sabotage workers abilities to gain better conditions (Ibid). The AFL was more concerned on gaining workers rights such as and eight hour work day then gaining political power.

Early Membership and Exclusion

When the AFL began, it would allow almost anyone to admit themselves as Gompers would open up the AFL to radical, socialist, and a few semi-skilled or not skilled at all, workers that encouraged a very small group of women, African-Americans, and immigrants to join. However by 1890, the Federation of Labor decided to began accepting mostly white workers who were exceptionally skilled and organized them into craft unions (Ibid). Although the Federation had used the egalitarianism policy that was applied to any workers that were African-American, it was thrown out and African-Americans were discriminated against (Ibid). This egalitarianism policy was in its works when AFL accepted the International Association of Machinists (though were rivals as AFL, at one time, refused to admit IAM) as this merged union would discriminate against any African-American worker (Ibid). The AFL would now approve the creation segregated locals associated with its affiliates, which would exclude the black workers from union membership and any employment they were involved with (Ibid). AFL would support legislation that would include literacy tests that would reduce the amount of eastern and southern European immigrants that lacked much skill (Ibid). (
Woman on Strike

Samuel Gompers

Samuel Gompers first president of AFL (1886-1924)
Samuel Gompers a native of England came to the United States when he was just a boy ( At the age of thirteen he joined the Cigarmaker's Union in 1836 and by 1874 he had become its president (Ibid). This started his career in working for laborers rights (Ibid). In 1886 he created the American Federation of Labor and became its first president (Ibid). Gompers believed that organized labor should not create a political party (Ibid). He worked on improving working conditions and increasing wages for workers (Ibid). He was president of the AFL until his death in 1924.

(Edited by Ryan, Jonathan, and Ethan)

Labor Strike Security