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[Detail] Vacuum cleaners on display at the J.C. Harding & Co.

3) The American Federation of Labor

Users also have an opportunity to review press releases and letters from the American Federation of Labor (AFL), including correspondence between AFL President Samuel Gompers and President Coolidge by searching on American Federation of Labor. In 1923, Gompers sent newspaper clippings about the condition of American labor to the President. Coolidge replied with a letter thanking Gompers for sending him the articles and asking for a meeting to discuss the matter.

Other letters and articles chronicle the increasingly strained relations between Coolidge and the AFL. On November 14, 1923, Gompers sent the President resolutions recently adopted during the 43rd annual AFL convention calling for a reduction in living costs. In his letter, Gompers stated, “It is common knowledge that high living costs can be traced directly to profiteering.”

During the 1924 election, the AFL solicited funds for Independent candidate Robert La Follette’s presidential campaign. On September 16, 1924, the AFL issued a press release stating that Coolidge and the Ku Klux Klan were “running neck and neck as the spokesmen of God and the Constitution.”

That same day, however, Mother Mary Jones, an outspoken proponent of organized labor, showed her support for President Coolidge by posing with him outside the White House. Use the preceding examples and following questions to better understand American labor and politics.

  • Explain Gompers’ statement, “It is common knowledge that high living costs can be traced directly to profiteering.”
  • Keeping in mind the Department of Labor’s report on working conditions, why would the AFL be interested in supporting an independent presidential candidate?
  • What tactics does the AFL press release use to associate Coolidge with the KKK?
  • What does the press release imply regarding organized labor’s regard for Coolidge?
  • To what group or groups of voters was this press release directed?
  • Why would some labor organizers such as Mary Jones support Coolidge in the election?