American Federation of Labor
The American Federation of Labor was founded in 1886 and was led by Samuel Gompers. It first became popular at the demise of the all-skills accepting Knights of Labor. The AFL was more open to only skilled workers; thus appearing as an alternative to the skilled KL laborers. The organization was fairly weak due to the fact that they were a more private federation, accepting only a small minority. It still became the mainstream voice of American Labor and remained the most powerful labor organization until 1955.
- concrete, labor-related goals (increased wages, hours, better working conditions, and the right to collective bargaining)
- avoid political issues and be a confederation of trade unions
- gain much political and economic power as an organization
Goal-Achieving Methods -
The federation did not use the strike as a huge tactic for rebellion. They did, however, use the walkout and boycott effectively. Gompers was not afraid to boycott, knowing the AFL and American public usually backed his actions.
Completely opposite of the Knights of Labor, AFL laborers required skill. As a leader, Gompers did not have worries or aspirations of including the entire working class. He knew his organization would gain greater economic and political power if unskilled workers were excluded. In fact, unskilled workers were a major contribution to the fall of the Knights of Labor. The union was also not accepting of immigrants, especially the Chinese, who were known to work for lower wages and were seen as a threat to American workers and their salaries. The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed to ban Chinese laborers from entering the US. Although the union contained only skilled workers, this did create problems since only a small minority could work for the organization.