Biographical / Historical
At its founding convention in 1881, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU) formed a Legislative Committee which was given responsibility for the administration of convention business, carrying out convention instructions, and to monitor "legislative measures directly affecting the question of labor."(1) Following the reorganization of FOTLU as the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1886, labor's involvement in the legislative process increased, and the Legislative Committee assumed a more active role as the federation's national lobby before Congress.
In 1896 President Samuel Gompers obtained convention approval to appoint the AFL's first salaried legislative representative to maintain a permanent office in Washington, D.C. The convention chose Andrew Furuseth, then lobbying for various seamen's unions, to act in this capacity. In 1906 the AFL issued its "Bill of Grievances," outlining major legislative goals and marking the beginning labor's intensified campaign to elect pro-labor candidates and defeat unfavorable candidates.
Original records of the Legislative Committee from 1906 to 1919 are scanty. (See page 336, vol. II, History Encyclopedia Reference Book for a list of Legislative Committee members through 1924.) In 1919 Gompers appointed William C. Roberts to serve as committee chairman. Roberts held this position until his retirement in early august 1939. William C. Hushing, who had served as a legislative representative under Roberts, was appointed to succeed him.
With the merger of the AFL and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1955, the offices of the AFL Legislative Committee and the CIO Legislative Department were combined to form the AFL-CIO Department of Legislation. The new department was placed under the co-directorship of Hushing and Robert Oliver, former director of the CIO Legislative Department. Following the retirement of Hushing and the resignation of Oliver, Andrew J. Biemiller was appointed department director in 1956. Biemiller held this position until his retirement in December, 1978.
(1) Report of the First Annual Session of the Federation of organized Trades and Labor Unions of the U.S. and Canada, 1989, p.11.
Carroll, Mollie Ray, Labor and Politics: The Attitude of the American Federation of Labor Toward Legislation and Politics. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1925.
Robinson, Archie, George Meany and His Times, a Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981.
Taft, Philip. The AF of L in the Time of Gompers. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1957.
Taft, Philip. The AF of L from the Death of Gompers to the Merger. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959.
American Federation of Labor. History, Encyclopedia and Reference Book. 3 vols., 1919, 1924, and 1960.