ABC’s of AFT: American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL – CIO)

American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (n.)  – The largest federation of unions in the United States. Having merged in 1955, the combined AF of L and C of IO (commonly referred to collectively as the AFL-CIO) is made up of 56 national and international unions (including the American Federation of Teachers) and represents more than 11 million workers.

As a voluntary federation, the AFL–CIO has little authority over its member unions, but often supports members in resolution of disagreements and other protective measures. Oft-portrayed (even by itself) as the “House of Labor,” the AFL-CIO’s only membership restriction excludes any unions whose policies and activities tend towards or support any activities or ideas that suppress individual liberties and freedom of association.

In addition to existing for the purposes of its members, the AFL-CIO is also governed by them. Every four years. Members meet at a national convention to elect delegates, who in turn elect officers, debate and approve policy, and set dues.

In addition to supporting their member unions and individual constituents, the AFL-CIO is a noted force in campaigns that supports political candidates and non-union organizations that espouse their pro-labor values. Headed by President Richard Trumka since 2009, the AFL-CIO remains a formidable political force, thanks in great part to its “get out the vote” efforts and influential “slate cards” that advise members as to which candidates to support in any given election or campaign.

The AFL–CIO also has a long and influential history in the struggle for civil rights. Though the AFL originally excluded workers of colors, after re-joining with the CIO, both groups began to pay more attention to these vital workers. Today, the AFL-CIO stands united in support of all workers who seek their support, including the millions of educators, education administrators, medical and public workers who consider the AFL-CIO “their” union