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Exhibition Join In: Voluntary Assocations in America

Letter from Frank Morrison (1859–1949) to Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), March 7, 1913. Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (117.00.00)
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“Labor Day,” American Federationist (Official Magazine of the AFL), September 1915. Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (118.00.00)
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American Federation of Labor

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was founded in 1886 in order to secure improved conditions and compensation for the members of its constituent craft unions. Despite his earlier criticism of organized labor, by 1912 the AFL had grown influential enough that Woodrow Wilson sought its political support in his bid for the presidency. As AFL’s secretary Frank Morrison noted in this letter, President Wilson’s first inaugural address directly spoke to labor and promised to “gradually eliminate from our present civilization the many inequalities and injustices which bear heavily upon many of our people.” Wilson later established the federal Department of Labor. Union membership more than tripled during his presidency.