The Baltimore Federation of Labor (BFL), an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor, was formed in 1883 by delegates from industry-specific unions such as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and the Bakery and Confectionery Workers' Union. The BFL's purpose was to improve the lives and working conditions of all laborers through unionization and legislative action. In the early twentieth century the BFL agitated for issues such as the eight-hour work day, legalizing unions, eliminating child labor, and free, compulsory education. The organization still exists today as the Baltimore Council of AFL-CIO Unions. The records of the Baltimore Federation of Labor consist primarily of microfilmed minutes of meetings from 1918-1965, and other documents including a constitution, union publications, and two oral histories of Baltimore union members.
This collection is open for research.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
6 folders Linear Feet
4 Tape Reels
The Baltimore Federation of Labor records consist primarily of microfilm copies of meeting minutes from 1918 to 1965. Other documents include the Federation's constitution, publications on union activities and legislation affecting businesses and unions, and two oral histories of Baltimore men involved with unions and the Baltimore Federation of Labor.
The Baltimore Federation of Labor (BFL) was formed in 1883 with the goal of improving the lives and working conditions of all laborers through unionization and legislative action. The Federation consisted of delegates from industry-specific unions, initially in crafts such as carpentry and baking. Founding member unions included the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the Bakery and Confectionery Workers Union, and the Cigar Makers International Union. In 1889, the Federation received a charter from the American Federation of Labor. The BFL agitated for issues such as the eight-hour work day, legalizing unions, eliminating child labor, and free, compulsory education. Between 1883 and 1900, the BFL was instrumental in enacting state laws regarding union trademarks, certain types of child labor, seats for female employees, and the legality of unions. During the Depression, the BFL expanded into industrial as well as craft professions and, for the first time, elected a woman delegate, Lillian Sipple, to the executive board. Competition with the Baltimore Industrial Council (BIC), an affiliate of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and other groups of a more socialist bent than the BFL, led to attrition of membership in the BFL and to increased fragmentation of labor in the city. Issues of race were also of continuing concern in the BFL, which was slow to support African-American workers or the integration of unions. The BFL still exists today as the Baltimore Council of AFL-CIO Unions.
This collection is organized as three series.
Isabella Hayes, head of the Maryland Room at the University of Maryland Libraries, solicited the records of the Baltimore Federation of Labor in 1966 as part of a projected Maryland Labor Archives.
When processing began, the collection included a great deal of unrelated material that had apparently been stored in the same box. Publications not related to the BFL or to unions generally were transferred to the Marylandia collection. Notes on speeches by Governor Albert C. Ritchie were transferred to the Papers of Albert C. Ritchie. The microfilm reels were re-housed in acid-free boxes and shelved with the microfilm collection. The audiotape reels were transferred to the audio tape collection. The paper materials were place in acid-free folders in an acid-free box.