American Labor Union

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The American Labor Union (ALU) was a socialist labor organization whose membership was largely confined to the states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming.[1]


When the Western Labor Union (WLU), a labor federation formed by the Western Federation of Miners, decided to overtly challenge the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1902, it changed its name to the American Labor Union. The ALU was created because the WFM wanted a class-wide labor body with which to affiliate. At one time the American Labor Union claimed 135,000 members.[2] However, it did not flourish,[3] and three years after its founding the ALU took part in the creation of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).[4]

When the AFL excluded unskilled workers, the ALU accused that federation of exercising policies that divided the working class. However, the ALU favored Asian Exclusion. (A Chinese exclusion act had been passed in 1882, and wasn't repealed until 1943.) In the Cripple Creek district of Colorado where the ALU had a presence, many non-white nationalities were excluded or discriminated against.[5] The Industrial Workers of the World, on the other hand, professed from its first conference in 1905 that there should be no discrimination against any worker.[6]

The American Labor Union endorsed the Socialist Party in 1902, as did "all the major Colorado labor organizations."[7] The ALU moved its headquarters from Butte to Chicago. It was in decline and on the verge of dissolution when it found new life in merging with other organizations into the IWW.[8]

The American Labor Union employed the rhetoric of political socialism, although it focused primarily on economic action by workers. Such economic action would later be referred to as direct action by the Industrial Workers of the World.[9]


The officers consisted of a president, vice-president, secretary-treasurer, and an executive board of nine members, which included the president and vice-president. The officers were elected biennially by a referendum vote of the general membership. The government was more centralized than the typical federation of trade unions of the time. For example, the executive board could depose any general officer, and affiliated organizations were not permitted to strike without the approval of the executive board.[1] The American Labor Union produced a journal called the American Labor Union Journal,[10] and a newspaper called Voice of Labor, which was edited by the Reverend Fr. Thomas J. Hagerty.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg "Labor Union, The American". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  2. ^ Robert Franklin Hoxie, Lucy Bennett Hoxie, Nathan Fine, Trade Unionism in the United States, D. Appleton and Co., 1921, page 105.
  3. ^ The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin, 1976, page 9 ppbk.
  4. ^ Elizabeth Jameson, All That Glitters: Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek, 1998, p. 77.
  5. ^ Elizabeth Jameson, All That Glitters: Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek, 1998, p. 190.
  6. ^ Solidarity Forever—An oral history of the IWW, Stewart Bird, Dan Georgakas, Deborah Shaffer, 1985, page 140.
  7. ^ Elizabeth Jameson, All That Glitters: Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek, 1998, p. 178.
  8. ^ Marion Dutton Savage, Industrial Unionism in America, The Ronald press company, 1922, page 124.
  9. ^ Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All, A History of the Industrial Workers of the World, University of Illinois Press Abridged, 2000, page 41
  10. ^ All That Glitters: Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek, Elizabeth Jameson, 1998, index.