Today, union organizations that participate in the AFL range from the Writer’s Guild of America, Plumbers and Pipe Fitters, Machinists, National Nurses United, Unite Here, United Union of Roofers and Waterproofers, and the American Federation of Teachers.  A full list can be found at The AFL-CIO is a national trade union center. It is the largest federation of unions in the United States, currently composed of 54 national and international unions which amounts to representation of more than ten million workers. The American Federation of Labor, or AFL, was one of the first federations of labor unions in the United States. It was founded in 1886 by Samuel Gompers who remained its president until his death in 1924.  Samuel Gompers immigrated from East London in 1863.  He was 13 years old.  His family settled in a slum in New York.  The family soon resumed the family business of making cigars.  In 1864, Gompers and his father joined the the small Cigar-makers’ Local Union No. 15.  He immediately rose up the leadership ranks and at 16 was negotiating with the owners for his fellow workers. Despite the push toward mechanizing the cigar process, which lowered the need for the precise and technical expertise of the experienced cigar makers, Gompers built the cigar union into a functioning international organization. In 1881, Gompers worked with the leaders of the […]

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early strikers

Unions began in the United States soon after the civil war, in 1869 the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, but did not take hold until the early 1900’s.  When a housing boom in the late 1800’s empowered plumbers, they affiliated with the Knights in several states. After the New Deal by Roosevelt, unions were given rights that allowed them to grow into the unions we see today. In the battle between Republicans and Democrats, the idea of socialism and the New Deal are put up as an example of what is good or bad about our government.  While excessive government does result in over-regulation and bureaucratic waste, unions and their power to negotiate with government entity rose out of the fact that many wealthy businessmen are comfortable increasing their profit margins by not providing a fair wage and working environment for the employees who earn the money for them. By looking back at the way things were in the recent past, in the first half of the last century, before unions, we can see the incredible dangers we still face should we ever lose our focus and our unity. History proves that some wealthy business owners, left to their own devices, will happily sacrifice the quality of life, economic well-being, the health and safety, and the very lives of working people if […]

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From the first Europeans to cross the land bridge into North America to our Serbian friends who were fleeing the Bosnian war, the United States has owed most of its culture and ethnic make-up to immigration. When the Irish and Chinese came over as indentured slaves, they became the bedrock that much of our industry is founded on. From winery caves to the railroads, their labor built much of the early United States. Now, they are a successful part of the country’s fabric. Each wave of immigrants was greeted with fear and skepticism. Established groups were quick to take advantage of the vulnerable groups who were eager to work at even the most menial tasks. Immigration is not for the weak or foolish, so eventually the new Americans began to rise up the social and economic ranks as entrepreneurs and successful workers. The word immigration, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary means the passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence. Most of the early groups to come to America, embraced it as their home. The Japanese American Creed states that all Japanese will strive at all times to be the best American they can be. In the movie America, America directed by Eliz Kazan in 1963 a young Anatolian Greek yells to the sky, “I am an American!” when he finally arrives […]

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