Labor and the Progressive Movement in New York State, 1897-1916

By Irwin Yellowitz | Go to book overview

X
The Continuing Political Involvement of Organized Labor, 1907-1916

IN 1906 the A.F.L. launched an intensified campaign of political action. Its leaders hoped the final result would be more effective reward and punishment, plus an increased number of unionists in Congress. The press quickly attacked the A.F.L.'s increased emphasis on political action, and many editors predicted that this would be the first step toward a United States counterpart of the British Labour Party. A few observers, however, opposed this view; and they correctly interpreted the statements of the A.F.L. as an effort to unite labor behind its friends in the old parties, and as a restatement of the long-established policy of electing unionists to office on the major party tickets.1 This new step merely sought to increase the effectiveness of the A.F.L.'s old policy: organized labor must be beholden to no political organization, be it an established party or an independent one; instead, labor should seek to use its voting potential in a unified manner for effective reward and punishment.

If the increased political action was not a new departure, it most certainly was a significant intensification of a basic dogma of the A.F.L., which had become inactive on the national scene. State and city labor bodies, however, had applied the principles of reward and punishment and the election of unionists much more widely, although with only limited success. It is thus not unexpected that the A.F.L.'s intensification of political action

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1
"Labor Unions in Politics," The Independent, LX ( May 3, 1906), 1050.

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