The Policies and Practices of the American Federation of Labor, 1900-1909 - Vol. 3

The Policies and Practices of the American Federation of Labor, 1900-1909 - Vol. 3

The Policies and Practices of the American Federation of Labor, 1900-1909 - Vol. 3

The Policies and Practices of the American Federation of Labor, 1900-1909 - Vol. 3

Synopsis

Labor at the turn of the Century; Open-shop drive; National Civic Federation; The church and labor; business unionism; Craft vs industrial unions; Women, Black and immigrant workers; AFL political policies; the Socialists; Western Federation of Miners; the American Labor Union, more.

Excerpt

The period from 1900 to America's entrance into the World War in April 1917 is one of the most important in the entire history of the American labor movement. During these years, the fundamental policies and practices of the American Federation of Labor were shaped. It was during this period, too, that the opposition to these policies and practices emerged most sharply. This period, moreover, saw the greatest growth of the Socialist Party and its greatest influence within the American labor movement.

Because of the significance of the period and the vast body of sources to which I had access, three volumes will be devoted to this era. The present volume covers the policies and practices of the A.F. of L. in the years 1900-1909. The next volume will cover the history of the Industrial Workers of the World from its formation in 1905 to America's entrance into World War I, the period of the greatest activity of the I.W.W. The third volume will deal with the A.F. of L., the Railroad Brotherhoods, and the Socialists, 1909-1917.

I have referred above to the vast body of sources available to me in studying the period 1900 to 1917. Unfortunately, the most important of these sources is no longer fully available to scholars. This is the incoming correspondence of the American Federation of Labor, once a rich treasurehouse of the letters of A.F. of L. officials, international and local unions, and of leaflets and pamphlets, often the only copies in existence. For many years, I was privileged to be able to study this vast collection housed in the basement of the old A.F. of L. building in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, most of the material was destroyed prior to the A.F. of L.'s move to new headquarters. A small fraction has been preserved on microfilm -- mainly manuscripts and records of routine interest -- and a small collection was transferred to the Wisconsin State Historical Society. But of the many crates, letter boxes and file drawers in the basement of the old A.F. of L. building, only a tiny portion has survived, and much of this is of only marginal value. (See, in this connection, Edward T. James, Where Are the A.F. of L. Papers, Labor Historians' Bulletin, Spring, 1959, pp. 1-5.) This is a tragic loss, not only for scholars but also for the labor movement itself.

Apart from the incoming correspondence of the A.F. of L. and the Letter-Books of Samuel Gompers, in preparing the present volume I have had access to collections of manuscripts, newspapers, pamphlets, and unpublished and published studies in numerous libraries and historical societies. I wish to thank the staffs of the Chicago Historical Society, Chicago

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