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Labor History


Labor Council History

The Council began in 1901, and was called “The Fond du Lac County Trades and Labor Council”. “The Trades and Labor Council was created by interested and concerned representatives of labor organizations in Fond du Lac County to provide coordination of information and assistance to all members of local unions in the County as well as to take part in community improvements and activities.”

The Council and its participation members have assisted in many projects throughout Fond du Lac County to promote Fond du Lac County as an excellent place to live. Some projects include the United Way, Blue Line Indoor Ice Arena, and Scholarships for disadvantaged students as well as helping the needy, aged, and suffering.        

from charter plaque at the Fond du Lac Labor Council

Labor Organization History

In 1881, representatives from  labor organizations met in Pittsburgh PA to form a national body, called the Federation of Organized Trade. This coalition operated in the United States and Canada, serving unions of mainly skilled labor. Five years later, in Columbus, Ohio they regrouped to form the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

They were politically known as a conservative force. Not wanting to form a “labor party” the organization focused on getting better working conditions for the common man. Conditions of interest were better wages, shorter hours, workers compensation, and child labor laws.

In the 1930’s, a strong minority faction grew and this faction included union members of the mass-production companies, big steel, auto and rubber. By 1935, John Lewis of the United Mine Workers developed the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO), which in 1938 changed its name to Congress of Industrial Organization. This breakaway organization grew rapidly and with the addition of other unions such as the garment union, they became politically active, forming the Political Action Committee (PAC). Within 20 years, they had 32 international unions and a membership of over five million.

Their growth was marred by internal strife, and in 1938, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union had withdrew from its membership. In 1942, the United Mine Workers also had bowed out. In 1948 the CIO had decided to bar Communists from holding office, and between 1949 and 50, they expelled eleven unions, said to be Communist-dominated.

During their alienation, there were thoughts of merger from both factions. During the Eisenhower’s administration, labor unions worried over Ike’s “antiunion” policies. This gave new momentum in the formation of labor unity. In 1952, both organizations tragically lost their presidents. This paved the way for George Meany, head of AFL, and Walter Reuther, head of CIO to merge in 1955.

The merger became “American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations” or AFL-CIO, electing Meany as the president. In 1957, the newly formed union adopted “antiracket codes” and ousted the Teamsters Union on grounds of failure to meet their ethical standards. Conflicts erupted between Meany and Reuther over their conservative move toward welfare and civil rights, so in 1968 Reuther took the United Auto Workers (UAW) and withdrew from the AFL-CIO.

The AFL-CIO now governs more than 60 autonomous unions, both national and international, and has more than ten million workers, ranging from actors, airline pilots to machinists and engineers. They also charter 51 state federations and almost 580 central labor councils.

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