The largest federation of unions in the U.S. comprising 56 national and international labor unions and representing around 12.5 million working men and women.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is the result of a 1995 merger between the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The merger meant a coalition of workers in industrial unions. AFL-CIO's main goal is to ensure fair treatment to all working people. This entails livable minimum wage, safe working environments, equal opportunities, and dignity, among other things.
ALF-CIO is an organization led by its members. Each union under the organization elects delegates that can choose vice presidents and officers, approve policies, and set dues. As for the president, AFL-CIO's delegates elect the one in charge to lead the organization for four years.
The federation holds an executive council meeting at least twice a year. The president, executive vice president, secretary-treasurer, and around 45 vice presidents attend the meeting, most of whom are the presidents of the labor unions under AFL-CIO. More common meetings happen between six vice presidents selected by the council and the president and secretary-treasurer. AFL-CIO also has a General Board consisting of the executive council and each union's principal officers to address policy matters annually.
Real-World Example of AFL-CIO
The AFL-CIO has been stepping up to help working people across the country for years. One such example comes from AFL-CIO Colorado that fought for the rights of the farmworkers. On Cesar Chavez Day, March 31, 2021, the Colorado General Assembly passed a resolution respecting the wishes of renowned labor activist Cesar Chavez. However, according to the federation, AFL-CIO noticed that Colorado's laws didn't give farmworkers basic rights.
The Colorado AFL-CIO has been trying to pass the S.B. 21087 bill, which would allow farmworkers to gain protections from the Colorado Labor Peace Act just like other workers. The protections include ensuring that farmworkers would get the state minimum wage and bonus pay from working overtime. Currently, agricultural employers may have some leeway of enforcing unpaid overtime and only has an obligation to pay the lower federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The S.B. 21087 bill would also increase the safety of the farmworkers' working environments. For instance, limiting the use of short-handled hoe would most likely give pain to the workers due to too much bending over. The bill also protects whistleblowers and improving the standards for health and housing.
History of AFL-CIO
Founded in 1886, AFL replaced Knights of Labor (KOL) as the most powerful industrial labor organization in the U.S. Members of KOL saw their organizations involved in social and political disputes, neglecting the supposed interests of why the federation existed in the first place. Consequently, the unions under KOL revolted and made a new organization (AFL), which had provided full autonomy to its union members and had steered clear of any national political issue.
In 1935, the question of whether a labor union should base its membership on craft (skill) or industry (workplace) arose. Due to the AFL's rejection of an industry-based resolution, the representatives of eight defected unions announced the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) foundation. AFL suspended all ten unions (including two unions who would join later). Still, CIO managed to build a presence by reaching agreements with large corporations such as U.S. Steel and General Motors, establishing the key steel, rubber, and automobile industries. Since then, people have regarded AFL and CIO as the two biggest workers' organizations in the U.S., each with their own characteristics and often battled for leadership in the country.
It was not until 1947 when AFL and CIO began to show their union solidarity. At the time, both federations knew that they couldn't help getting into political activity as it's the only way to oppose new, unfair laws. To gain even stronger momentum, AFL and CIO decided to merge in 1995 as AFL-CIO, which effectively united one-third of all non-agricultural workers in the country.
Significance of AFL-CIO
AFL-CIO helps people acquire relevant soft skills and hard skills to survive in the 21st-century job market. The organization claims that it operates the largest non-military training network in the U.S. AFL-CIO advances legislation to create more suitable job opportunities by investing money from taxes to build schools, roads, ports, bridges, and educational and training institutions. Other aspects encouraged by AFL-CIO include better pension plans, fairer tax policies, and more affordable, high-quality health care programs.
AFL-CIO also helps encourage or maintain decent jobs in the country. It achieves this by providing worker protections, reforming trade rules, and reindustrializing the U.S. economy. Furthermore, AFL-CIO assures that it will hold firms accountable for their actions if the need arises.
AFL-CIO works toward making secure and equitable workplaces for all labor workers in any industry or craft. The federation also makes various efforts to ensure that all related parties hear the working people's voice against any workplace injustice without facing the possibility of being threatened or retaliated. AFL-CIO is willing to do any means necessary to eliminate any oppression and enforce economic and social justice.