American Federation of Labor

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was organized in 1886. Its president was Samuel Gompers, who served until 1925. During Gompers' presidency, the AFL rose to more than 4 million members by 1920, after which its membership declined until 1933, when it was not much more than 2 million.

The purpose of the AFL was to organize skilled workers into national unions consisting of others in the same trade. Their purpose was not political, and aimed simply at shorter hours, higher wages, and better working conditions.

The unwillingness of the AFL to address the needs of unskilled and semi-skilled workers in mass production industries led to the establishment of the Committee for Industrial Organization by eight international unions within the AFL. The CIO did not succeed in changing AFL attitudes and the following year, the then-ten members of the CIO were expelled from the AFL. The CIO reorganized in 1938 and changed their name to the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

The AFL and CIO were eventually reunited as the AFL-CIO in 1955.