Early american workers dealt with many problems. These problems ranged from child labor to unemployment. The workers also tried to set up groups, called unions, that they could call their own. The owners of the companies they worked for could not give the workers what they deserved because of their unions. Many unions also helped shape our modern US history by helping the people come together as a whole. One such union was the American Federation of Labor (A. F. of L. ).
The unions of the A. F. of L. laced great emphasis on written collective agreements, including the closed shop, in which only union members are permitted to work. The A. F. of L. unions also insisted that members pay relatively high dues, and many of them established insurance and strike benefits. They became known to be job consciousness rather than class consciousness. The start of the A. F. of L. started with the beliefs of one man. That man was Samuel Gompers. He believed in organizing skilled workers ofd the same craft, build unions of plumbers, or carpenters, or cigar makers.
By establishing these unions, a labor movement started to unfold. He split the American unions from the class struggle, and made it a partner to the US and not an enemy as people thought unions were. Gompers made unions respectable to the people. Child Labor The A. F. of L. was a pioneer in restricting child labor. The A. F. of L. would have a law passed by the Congress but the Supreme court would say Congress over stepped its powers. Even though this slowed the progress of child labor laws, it did not stop Gompers from trying to start the laws.
The A. F. of L. held a conference in 1922 in which any union who wished to see the abolition of child labor was invited. The council worked for the restriction of child labor by writing an amendment that did not get enough votes to pass. It was not until the 1930″s that some forms of restriction come about. Unemployment The depression in the 1930″s gave way to massive unemployment. In 1929, 3. 2% of the workers could not find work. In 1933, it rose to over 24. 9% of the workers not being able to find work. The A. F. of L. ecognized the problem of unemployment even before it became a problem in the 1930″s.
The A. F. of L. had a plan for meeting unemployment: (1) establishment of a national employment service by Congress; (2) census of unemployment to be included in the census to be taken in 1930; and (3) regularization of employment by management to provide stable work. The plan also represented the following program as a means for relieving unemployment: (1) shorter work hours to be introduced in industry, with the five days week and vacations with pay; (2) stabilization of employment.
With the effort of the A. F. of L. , unemployment was greatly reduced, but not completely and jobs for workers became easier to attain and keep. Education The A. F. of L. has always supported the education of children and the free public school. They liked the idea of “enactments that will enforce the education of children. ” They supported free textbooks to the school children and the establishment of part time classes for the education of minors who were employed.
Federal aid to the A. F of L. eant four items: (1) able to pay the teachers; (2) aid to protect the health of the student; (3) scholarships to help those in need to further education; and (4) support in a school building program. Extra funds would be distributed based on need. In 1920, the Workers” Education Bureau was established with the help of the A. F. of L. The bureau was to promote and assist educational work done by the unions. The bureau became an important and very functional part of the A. F. of L. Merger of AFL and CIO The A. F. of L. and the C. I.
O (another strong union) saw that unions would be better able to serve their members and the community if a labor unity was reached. Talks soon started with the help of President Roosevelt but were soon halted by both sides in 1939. Talks did not resume until 1942 where an agreement was negotiated. The agreement was signed by three members of both unions who were put in charge of the agreement. But the major leaders of both unions accused the other of raiding They said that talks could not go farther until they agreed that neither side would raid and the war was over.
Year after year, very little progress was made, but enough to keep the talks going. Serious negotiations were not made until 1947. Closer cooperation between both groups slowly began with the help of local groups affiliated with the two unions. In 1954, both sides agreed to the no-raiding policy. The new A. F. L-C. I. O spent time examining their differences standing in the way of finalizing their unity. In 1955, all differences were sorted out and on February 9, the Merger Agreement was signed. On this day, the American Federation of Labor finished its seventy-five years of existence.