When the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada (FOTLU) was organized in 1881, its constitution provided for the annual election of a Legislative Committee that would supervise the organization. FOTLU had two chief aims: organizing workers and supporting the passage of legislation recognizing the rights of workers. The organization’s constitution provided for the separate election of a federation secretary, who would serve as secretary of the committee and act as a chief executive officer of the federation. That year W.H. Foster won the seat of secretary and the remaining members of the committee included Richard Powers, Samuel Gompers, Charles F. Burgman, and Alex C. Rankin. In 1883 the Legislative Committee was expanded to nine, consisting of the President, First through Sixth Vice-Presidents, a Secretary and a Treasurer.
In 1886 FOTLU at its sixth annual session voted to merge itself with the American Federation of Labor, then holding its first annual convention. The constitution called for the following executive officers: a president, two vice-presidents, a secretary and a treasurer. The new organization’s constitution also provided for an Executive Council which would bear responsibility for organizing workers and pushing for such legislation as the convention directed. Since that time, the executive structure of the AFL, with minor adjustments, has remained the same: the president and secretary (later secretary-treasurer) serving as chief executive officers, the executive council exercising the powers of the convention during the time between the meetings of the convention, and the annual (later semi-annual) conventions electing officers and voting on broad policy guidelines.
William Green, the second president of the AFL, was born in Coshocton, Ohio, on March 3, 1873. With eight years of formal education, Green followed his father into the coal mines at the age of sixteen. By 1891 he had become active in union activities serving first as secretary of the Coshocton Progressive Miners Union (later a local of the United Mine Workers Union) and subsequently moving upward in the UMWA organization from district officer in 1900 to international secretary-treasurer, 1912 to 1924. Shortly after beginning his tenure as UMWA secretary-treasurer, Green won a position on the AFL executive council and in 1924 became president following the death of Samuel Gompers. Green held that position until his own death on November 21, 1952.
William Green supported the labor movement in the political arena as well as within the UMWA and AFL organizations. He served two terms in the Ohio senate from 1910 to 1913 where he wrote the state’s workmen’s compensation act; he represented labor at international labor conferences following the end of World War I; and he worked with various presidential committees and boards during the New Deal, World War II, and the Korean War.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
This collection consists of two records series (Series 1: Government Boards, Agencies, and Departments and Series 2: National and International Union Correspondence). These records were originally included in the records transferred to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in the mid-1950s but were returned to the AFL-CIO in 1967 upon the request of the federation. Both series are duplicated on microfilm produced by the AFL-CIO: Series 1 appears on reels 1 and 2, Micro 07; Series 2 appears on reel 23, Micro 23.