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AFL-CIO Legislation Department records

 Collection 0055-LBR-RG21-001

The AFL-CIO Legislation Department was the lobbying arm of the AFL and later the AFL-CIO. This collection consists of the legislative reference files including congressional correspondence, state and local central bodies correspondence, office memoranda, and staff working files.


  • 1906-1978

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


129.90 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

The AFL-CIO Legislation Department was an early committee established to administer AFL convention business, and increasingly gained an active role in the national lobby for the labor movement before Congress. This collection consists of legislative reference files of the AFL and the AFL-CIO. Major subjects include the workings of the office and legislative efforts at the congressional, state, and local level. Materials include include congressional correspondence, state and local central bodies correspondence, office memoranda, and staff working files.

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." 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.

Additional information about legislative activities can be found in published convention proceedings of the AFL, CIO, and AFL-CIO, and pamphlets.


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.

Report of the First Annual Session of the Federation of organized Trades and Labor Unions of the U.S. and Canada, 1989, p.11.

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into five series:

Series 1
Legislative Reference Files 1921-1978
Series 2
Congressional Correspondence, 1906-1978
Series 3
State and Local Central Bodies, 1951-1978
Series 4
Memoranda, 1937-1959
Series 5
Staff Working Files, 1947-1975

Custodial History

Records processed in this collection were brought together from two sources. The first consisted of 53 transfer files of non-current material that had been removed from the department to a section in storage designated in the 1950s for departmental use. The second source was three lots of records transferred from the department in 1978 under good intellectual control. Storage limitations prior to 1978 meant the department practiced its own informal "records management" program, with material chosen for destruction over the years apparently based on space needs rather than on appraisal for historic content. Gaps which exist in the collection, in part, reflect this practice.

The AFL-CIO Department of Legislation transferred these records to the Archives between 1950 and 1978, which is before the Meany Archives was officially established. The George Meany Memorial Archives transferred these records as part of a major transfer of their archive and library holdings to the University of Maryland Libraries in 2013.

Related Materials

Office of the President Records, AFL Convention Files, 1909-1951(available through 1947 only on microfilm).

The minute book of the FOTLU Legislative Committee held by the Meany Archives in original copy and on film.

Held at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin:

Four document cases of legislative reference files, forming part of the records sent there by the AFL in the 1950s.

Original convention files, 1947-1952.

Processing Information

Pete Hoefer at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in July 1984. The University of Maryland Libraries received the records and the finding aid in 2013. In 2017, Bria Parker exported and cleaned the finding aid contents from the Eloquent Systems database using OpenRefine, and finally transformed the finding aids into Encoded Archival Description (EAD) using a series of programmatic scripts. The finding aid was ingested into ArchivesSpace in 2018, at which point Rebecca Thayer updated the descriptive content for accuracy. Revisions include changes to biographical/historical notes, scope and content notes, and the creation of new collection numbers. Rebecca Thayer also enhanced custodial histories and re-wrote collection titles to better conform to archival standards.

Guide to the AFL-CIO Legislation Department records
Finding aid created by Pete Hoefer at the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archives.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742