American Federation of Labor Records, 1888-1955

Contents List

Scope and Content Note

The American Federation of Labor Records are composed of files from various offices or divisions of the organization. These files have, with some exceptions, been preserved as they were received by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. One of these exceptions is the Samuel Gompers papers in which the correspondence was arranged chronologically. The files of each office have been arbitrarily called a “series” and each series begins with Box 1. The researcher should include the series number with the main call number which is U.S. Mss 117A. Thus, if series 3 is wanted the call number is U.S. Mss 117A/3.

Approximately one-third of the collection are files from the Office of the President (Series 11). As varied in content as it is voluminous, the Gompers general correspondence included in these files is primarily incoming letters and generally deals with public issues confronting the Federation such as politics, legislation, legal proceedings, relations with foreign labor groups, World War I, and numerous other topics. Gompers' correspondence with national and international unions concerns basic trade union activities such as organizing, granting of charters, jurisdictional disputes, strikes, lockouts, boycotts, and similar matters. William Green's presidency is documented by files on the topics above plus information on the formation of the CIO and relations between the CIO and AFL, the New Deal, and World War II-related events and organizations. Also in the files of the President's Office are speeches and writings by both Gompers and Green, conference and convention papers, hearing testimony, and resolutions, reports, clippings, and other types of material filed both with the correspondence and separately as a reference file.

The other large series in the collection are the Industry Reference File (1930-1950) (Series 4), the files of the Director of Research (circa 1935-1952) (Series 8), and the Strikes and Agreements File (1898-1953) (Series 7). The Industry Reference File contains correspondence, statistical data, clippings, and copies of other documents concerning industrial conditions and state and federal legislation relevant to industry and labor. Materials deal with NRA codes; wage and hour hearings and rulings; World War II-related production, housing, and labor problems; post-war adjustment; and other topics. Files of Florence Thorne as Director of Research also pertain to World War II and to post-war problems as well as Social Security, old age insurance generally, unemployment compensation, and health issues. The Strikes and Agreements File contains correspondence, reports, and other material exchanged by union locals and the president of the AFL, filed by local union number.

Among the remaining materials in the collection are files on state anti-labor laws, right-to-work legislation, and unemployment compensation provisions and decisions; files of National Labor Relations Board communications; minutes and other records on the Labor Policy Committee of the War Assets Administration; files on general economic and social topics such as civil rights, child welfare, education, and national defense; and correspondence, 1933-1938, concerning problems arising from Works Progress Administration projects.

Small portions of this collection are also available on microfilm produced by the Historical Society (Micro 489 and Micro 568) as well as in the original paper form. The Gompers papers and the Mining Dept. records are Reels 58-144 of The American Federation of Labor Records; The Samuel Gompers Era issued by Microfilming Corporation of America, 1979. A positive user copy is cataloged in the Historical Society Library and described in Pam 79-2180. (A negative copy of these 87 reels is in Archives custody as Micro 749.)

The Strikes and Agreements File (Series 7) is also available as a microfilm publication produced by University Publications of America, 1985. A copy is not in the Archives' holdings but a positive user copy is cataloged in the Historical Society Library.

The papers are organized as follows:

  • Series 1. Files of the Executive Secretary of the Labor Housing Conference, 1935-1937. 4 boxes. Also on Micro 489 (3 reels)
  • Series 2. Legislation Reference Files, 1919-1930. 4 boxes
  • Series 3. State Legislation Files, 1942 1951. 6 boxes
  • Series 4. Industry Reference File, 1930-1950. 139 boxes
  • Series 5. Files of the Economist of the AFL
  • Series 5: File A. NLRB Files, 1938-1940. 11 boxes
  • Series 5: File B. Labor Policy of the War Assets Administration, 1945-1948. 4 volumes
  • Series 5: File C. General File. 30 boxes
  • Series 6. American Federationist Files
  • Series 6: File A. General File, 1934-1943. 9 boxes
  • Series 6: File B. Book Review File, 1932-1939. 1 box
  • Series 7: Strikes and Agreements File, 1904-1953. 77 boxes
  • Series 8: Files of the Director of Research
  • Series 8: File A. General File. 44 boxes
  • Series 8: File B. Social Security File, 1934-1943. 6 boxes
  • Series 8: File C. Old Age Insurance File, 1939-1942. 1 box
  • Series 8: File D. Unemployment Compensation File, 1935-1940. 10 boxes
  • Series 8: File E. Health File, 1935-1943. 4 boxes
  • Series 8: File F. General File, 1939-1943. 2 boxes
  • Series 9: WPA Files, 1933-1938. 7 boxes
  • Series 10: Information and Research File, 1937-1945
  • Series 10: File A. Arranged by Industry. 13 boxes
  • Series 10: File B. Arranged by Union Representative. 8 boxes
  • Series 10: File C. Arranged by Union Local Number. 7 boxes
  • Series 10: File D. Statistical File. 3 boxes
  • Series 11: Files of the Office of the President
  • Series 11: File A. Samuel L. Gompers Papers, 1888-1937. 66 boxes. Also on a microfilm publication available in the Historical Society Library
  • Series 11: File B. William Green Papers, 1915-1945 (Subject correspondence). 1O boxes
  • Series 11: File C. William Green Papers, 1934-1951 (re AFL/CIO relationship). 44 boxes. A small portion also on Micro 568 (1 reel)
  • Series 11: File D. William Green Papers, 1924-1952 (Subject correspondence). 23 boxes
  • Series 11: File E. William Green Papers, 1925-1952 (Speeches and articles). 16 boxes
  • Series 12: Mining Department Records, 1911-1915. 1 box. Also on a microfilm publication available in the Historical Society Library
  • Series 13: Disc Recordings, 1946, 1955, undated. 12 disc recordings
  • Series 14: Executive Council Minutes, 1952. 1 box