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American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations

Introduction

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), a federation of autonomous labor unions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, and U.S. dependencies, formed in 1955 by the merger of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). As of 2010, the AFL-CIO included 58 national and international unions that had a U.S. membership of 11.5 million. Heavily involved in politics, the AFL-CIO's primary function is to lobby on behalf of organized labor and mediate disputes between its member unions. The AFL-CIO has campaigned actively against the so-called right-to-work laws, which outlawed union shops (see closed shop), has worked to repeal the Taft-Hartley Labor Act, and has fought other legislation deemed inimical to organized labor's interests.

The organization has five operating levels. Ultimate authority is vested in those attending its biennial convention, but between conventions the organization is run by an executive council, which is composed of the executive officers (president, secretary-treasurer, and executive vice president) and 51 vice presidents. Executive officers handle the day-to-day operations of the organization, and they are advised by a general board consisting of the executive council members, a chief officer of each affiliated union and of each programmatic department within the AFL-CIO, and four regional representatives from the 51 state federations. In addition to these levels of authority, the AFL-CIO carried over autonomous departments from the AFL (such as the Building Trades Dept.) and added an Industrial Union Dept. to handle the problems of the former CIO unions. The union's 13 programmatic departments handle the work of the federation, including labor organizing, political education, legislation, civil rights, and worker safety and health.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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