Organized Labor and the Works Council Movement

September 9, 1927

Report Outline
History of the Works Council Movement
Employers Motives in Establishing Works Councils
Structure and Functions of Works Councils
Achievements of Works Council Plans
New Policies of Trade Unionism
Special Focus

A slight increase in the membership of constituent unions of the American Federation of Labor will be shown in the annual report of the Executive Council to be submitted at the national convention of the Federation at Los Angeles in October. The prospect of a good membership showing for 1927 gives considerable satisfaction to A. F. of L. leaders, who point out that it will mark the third successive year in which the strength of the trade unions has remained stationary or made a small gain. For the five year period, 1920 to 1924, inclusive the membership of the A. F, of L. declined annually at a rapid rate. In 1924 the Federation was weaker by approximately 1,210,000 members than in 1920, when it was at the peak of its strength.

Changes in the total strength of A. F. of L. unions during the last twenty five years, as reported by the Executive Council, are shown in the following table.

Year ending Aug. 31 Average total paid-up or reported membership
1902 1,024,399
1907 1,538,970
1912 1,770,145
1917 2,371,434
1918 2,726,478
1919 3,260,068
1920 4,078,740
1921 3,906,528
1922 3,195,635
1923 2,926,468
1924 2,865,799
1925 2,877,297
1926 2,803,966

In 1926 the Railway Clerks' union, with 90,000 members, was suspended from the A. F. of L. Its membership is not included in the total. The apparent loss in 1926 cannot, therefore, be taken as evidence of a real loss in trade union strength.

It is noted in the report of the Executive Council for 1926 that the total given for paid-up and reported memberships does not take account of all members of affiliated unions. Those who were unemployed or on strike, or for whom per capita dues were not being paid for other reasons, numbered about 500,000 in 1926, so that the total strength of the Federation in that year was approximately 3,300,000. In addition to unions affiliated with the A. F. of L. there are various independent organizations with a total membership of more than a million. Including these organizations, the total trade union strength in the United States was estimated by Secretary of Labor Davis to be 4,443,523 in 1926.

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Jul. 30, 1936  Federal Intervention in Labor Disputes
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