Western Labor Union

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The Western Labor Union (WLU) was a labor federation created by the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) after the disastrous Leadville strike of 1896-97. The WLU was conceived in November, 1897 in a proclamation of the State Trades and Labor Council of Montana, and gained support from the WFM's executive board in December 1897.[1] The WLU was formed in 1898 at a convention in Salt Lake City which was attended mostly by former members of the Knights of Labor.[2] The new federation was formed as a response to the conservatism of the American Federation of Labor.

The hardrock miners of the WFM had become well-organized, but apart from the miners, mining territories were largely unorganized. Members of the WFM saw the WLU as an opportunity to meet the needs of these other workers, and also as a means to bolster solidarity when the need arose.[3]

Eugene V. Debs assisted with the formation of the WLU. The federation initially comprised 14,000 miners and 400 individuals from other trades. Among the other trades were Colorado coal miners' locals, Colorado railway workers, western hotel and restaurant workers, carpenters, typographers,[4] grocery clerks, laundry workers, cooks and waiters, hack drivers, and mattress makers.[5]

After the transfer of the Western Federation of Miners headquarters [ to Denver, Colorado ] in 1900, and especially after the opening of a WLU office there in May 1901, the WLU began a period of astonishing growth. Of the seventy-one new charters the WLU issued to unions between May 1901 and February 1902, seventeen were to organizations in Denver. The WLU's initial base in Denver lay with the eleven hundred workers at the Globe and Grant smelters ... [ but the WLU ] represented a diverse array of urban workers—many, though not all, of them unskilled—organized mainly in industrial organizations.[6]

One Denver WLU affiliate was the powerful Butchers Protective Union, with nearly fifteen hundred members in 1902. It included skilled butchers and unskilled meatpackers.[7]

In 1902, as a response to a visit of a delegation from the American Federation of Labor "to plead for a reunited labor movement," the WLU changed its name to the American Labor Union.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Eric Arnesen,Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-class History, 2006, page 92.
  2. ^ A History of American Labor, Joseph G. Rayback, 1966, page 237.
  3. ^ The IWW: Its First Seventy Years, Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin, 1976, page 10 ppbk.
  4. ^ A History of American Labor, Joseph G. Rayback, 1966, page 237, and All That Glitters, Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek, Betsy Jameson, 1998, page 63.
  5. ^ David Brundage, The Making of Western Labor Radicalism: Denver's Organized Workers, 1878-1905, 1994, page 143.
  6. ^ David Brundage, The Making of Western Labor Radicalism: Denver's Organized Workers, 1878-1905, 1994, page 143.
  7. ^ David Brundage, The Making of Western Labor Radicalism: Denver's Organized Workers, 1878-1905, 1994, page 143.
  8. ^ A History of American Labor, Joseph G. Rayback, 1966, page 237.