Business Politics


The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)


The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations was created in 1955 when the AFL and the CIO merged after an extended rift. From then until 2005, the AFL-CIO’s member unions represented virtually all union workers in the U.S.

What they represent

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is the world’s largest federation of labor unions. The federation represents almost all unionized workers in the United States and a large number of workers from international member unions. Representing teachers, factory workers, nurses, office employees, actors, writers, and other working personnel, AFL-CIO aims to better the lives of its members by promoting higher wages and compensations, medical benefits, and healthy working conditions among other things. AFL-CIO seeks to achieve these through bargaining and negotiations with the corporations where its members are being employed.

Recent activities

The AFL-CIO, though still the world’s biggest union federation, has suffered a decline of its members in 2005. The decline started when in 2003, due to huge expenses the organization spent on internal politics, some of AFL-CIO’s largest members organized the loose coalition New Unity Partnership (NUP). The NUP called for the reorganization of AFL-CIO’s political and management structure, as well as shifting the organization’s attention to industrial unionism, which would have eliminated some of the smaller member unions. In 2005, the NUP was dissolved, paving the way for the establishment of the Change to Win Federation, which threatened to break away from AFL-CIO if demands for major reconstruction within AFL-CIO were not met.

While making preparations for the 50th anniversary of the AFL-CIO, three of the organization’s largest member unions formally announced their withdrawal of membership from AFL-CIO. These were: Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The Laborers’ International Union of America and the United Farm Workers remained as members of both AFL-CIO and Change to Win Federation.

Currently, the AFL-CIO has been frequently criticizing the Bush administration for the adverse impact the war on Iraq has done to the US ailing economy and for the government’s lack of long-terms solutions to the growing economy crisis of the country. US Senator John McCain has been under AFL-CIO’s heavy fire because of the purportedly shortsighted plans he suggested to aid the recovery of the ailing US economy. One of McCain’s proposal suggested that considerable cuts should be made to government healthcare services such as Medicare and Medicaid. AFL-CIO strongly opposes this move, as the organization believes that such services are vital lifelines to the working people of the country.

Some of the more interesting facts about the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations include:

  • Samuel Gompers formed the American Federation of Labor in 1888 as an overhaul of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. Gompers took a capitalist approach in negotiating with companies and corporations regarding the welfare of workers. He preferred settling matters down with talks, acts which prompted corporations to favor him and his federation.
  • Although the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is the largest federation of labor unions, it exercises little authority over its member unions. Only in certain extreme cases will the AFL-CIO interfere with its member unions’ affairs.

The member base of AFL-CIO now amounts to 10.5 million members, with 2 million coming from the United State alone. AFL-CIO presently has 54 national and international member unions coming from Canada, and Mexico, among others.