Other Group

American Association for Labor Legislation

Formation:

1905

Dissolved:

1943

The American Association for Labor Legislation (AALL) was an early policy advocacy organization that promoted left-progressive employment legislation. Conceived in 1905, the AALL was a project of several economists whose stated goal was resolving labor conflicts without openly siding with either workers or managers. These economists shared a belief that a government agency would be necessary to correct for the potential negative side effects of industrialization and capitalist growth. [1] They also viewed employment regulations as a vehicle for further expansion of left-progressive labor political power. [2]

The AALL was formally established in 1906 in New York City as an affiliate of the International Association for Labor Legislation (IALL) which aimed to implement policy across the industrial world. The organization would go on to start a publication, the American Labor Legislation Review, and lobby politicians in order to get left-progressive employment regulations passed. The AALL remained active for several decades, finally disbanding in 1943. [3]

Background

The rapid shift from traditional models of economic and societal organization towards heavy industry concentrated in urban areas brought with it upheaval in the United States and across the Western world. In light of this, social scientists began considering ways to resolve disputes between labor and management, including those involving state intervention. [4]

The American Association for Labor Legislation fell into the camp of favoring new legislation and government spending to address labor issues. It was run by economist John Bertram Andrews for nearly the entire duration of its active period, with his wife Irene Osgood Andrews also holding a leadership role. [5]

Initiatives

The American Association for Labor Legislation was not originally created with lobbying or advocacy in mind. Just a few years after its founding, however, the organization started to actively push for the policies it was researching and articulating, including proposals related to workers’ injury compensation, workplace health and safety, and restrictions on child labor. [6]

“Social Insurance”

Several years after its founding, the AALL conducted a study on the societal and economic impact of sickness in the workplace. The organization claimed that American industries incurred an annual loss of $7.7 million (in 1910 dollars) due to workers falling ill. Citing this study, the AALL pushed for the United States government to implement universal taxpayer-funded health care and worker compensation programs, arguing that this would reduce job absenteeism and increase productivity. [7]

Uniformity of Labor Laws

The AALL considered implementing similar or identical employment regulations across the entire United States one of its basic objectives, much like its parent organization, the IALL, which pushed for consistent implementation of left-progressive labor laws in all industrializing countries of the time. [8]

American Labor Legislation Review

Between 1911 and 1941, the AALL published a quarterly journal called the American Labor Legislation Review to publicize its policy prescriptions. While the mission statement of the journal was “conservation of human resources,” it adopted a longer description during the First World War, arguing that policies promoted by AALL would also help with the war effort. [9]

Modern and Contemporary Perspectives

The United States Department of Labor (DoL) cites the American Association for Labor Legislation as an early “champion” of employment regulation. According to the DoL, the organization intended to use workplace health and safety laws in order to establish a foothold for other left-progressive labor causes within the federal bureaucracy. [10]

During the peak of the AALL’s influence, some competing labor activists viewed the organization as a tool of wealthy industrialists because it took funding from philanthropists such as John D. Rockefeller, who would go on to establish the Rockefeller Foundation, an influential philanthropy that would over time move left of center. Samuel Gompers, the president of the American Federation of Labor (which eventually merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations to create the AFL-CIO, a leading national labor union federation), accused AALL of spreading gossip and interfering in the affairs of others within the labor movement. [11]

References

  1. “American Association for Labor Legislation.” Encyclopedia. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/american-association-labor-legislation ^
  2. “Progressive Ideas.” U.S. Department of Labor. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://www.dol.gov/general/aboutdol/history/mono-regsafepart06 ^
  3. “American Association for Labor Legislation Records on Microfilm.” Cornell University Library. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/KCL05001mf.html ^
  4. “American Association for Labor Legislation.” Encyclopedia. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/american-association-labor-legislation ^
  5. “American Association for Labor Legislation Records on Microfilm.” Cornell University Library. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/KCL05001mf.html ^
  6. “American Association for Labor Legislation.” Encyclopedia. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/american-association-labor-legislation ^
  7. “American Association for Labor Legislation.” Encyclopedia. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/american-association-labor-legislation ^
  8. “American Association for Labor Legislation Records on Microfilm.” Cornell University Library. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/KCL05001mf.html ^
  9. “American Association for Labor Legislation.” Encyclopedia. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/american-association-labor-legislation ^
  10. “Progressive Ideas.” U.S. Department of Labor. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://www.dol.gov/general/aboutdol/history/mono-regsafepart06 ^
  11. “American Association for Labor Legislation.” Encyclopedia. Accessed January 16, 2022. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/american-association-labor-legislation ^
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