New Effort to Returns C.I.O and A.F.L.
Ratification of a “no-raid” agreement with the Congress of Industrial Organizations was the most significant action affecting the future of the American labor movement taken at the 1953 convention of the American Federation of Labor. If accepted by the C.I.O. at its annual convention in November, the agreement will come into force next January 1 and remain in effect until the end of 1955. Meanwhile, negotiations for “organic unity” will be conducted by top leaders of both organizations and, if present hopes are realized, the A.F.L. and C.I.O. will be reunited after two decades of separation.
The A.F.L. now has 111 national or international affiliates and the C.I.O. has 48. Aggregate membership of the two organizations is somewhere between 15 million and 16 million, of which the A.F.L. share is about 10 million. Organizing campaigns would be expected to swell the total figure to 18 million or 20 million two years hence. For the leaders of organized labor, the size of the proposed amalgamation is a potent argument in its favor.
About 75 of the country's labor unions are independents, not affiliated with either the A.F.L. or C.I.O. They have a combined membership in the neighborhood of two million. The most important of the independents are the railway brotherhoods and the United Mine Workers, headed by John L. Lewis. Lewis, who has been in and out of both the A.F.L. and the C.I.O., is a warm advocate of labor unity. In a Labor Day statement, Sept. 7, he expressed the hope that “a year hence” the American labor movement would be united and working as one for the economic and social welfare of the people. But there is much suspicion of his motives among other leaders of organized labor and serious doubt whether his influence on future unity negotiations will be constructive.