History of Ohio AFL-CIO

Shortly after the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was established in 1886, the Ohio Federation of Labor was born to collectively advance the interests of trade unionists and working families.

The Ohio AFL-CIO was formed in 1958 to battle a right-to-work campaign backed by Ohio Republicans and big businesses. Since that merger of the state’s craft and industrial unions, the Ohio AFL-CIO has been at the forefront of struggles for political power and economic and social justice for working families. Our strength derives from 600,000 union men and women who are affiliated with the Ohio AFL-CIO through 40 international unions and 1,500 local unions. Along with hundreds of thousands of union retirees, they are the individuals who provide the collective power of the Ohio AFL-CIO.

Here is a timeline of Ohio’s Labor History:


The founding Convention of the American Federation of Labor was hosted in Columbus at the current location of 4th and Town Street.  Led by Samuel Gompers, President of the International Union of Cigar Makers the AFL was intent on improving the economic conditions of the Federation’s skilled craft workers within the existing framework of American capitalism.


William Green, former officer of the United Mine Workers, and Ohio Senate president pro tem pushed through the state legislature a measure that resulted in the Ohio’s first workers’ compensation law.


William Green succeeds Samuel Gompers as the American Federation of Labor president.


Created by John L. Lewis, President, United Mine Workers, the Committee for Industrial Organization, was formed within the American Federation of Labor to encourage organizing workers in mass production industries along industrial union lines.


The Committee for Industrial Organizations broke away from American Federation of Labor, and was renamed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) with John L Lewis serving as its first president.


The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations merged serving as a national trade union center and the largest federation of unions in the United States.


The Ohio AFL-CIO was formally established.  The Ohio AFL-CIO led the effort to defeat a business-backed “right to work” constitutional amendment by a 2-1 margin.


The Ohio AFL-CIO was instrumental in seeking and obtaining passage of Ohio’s collective bargaining law for public employees.


The Ohio AFL-CIO was a lead organization in a ballot referendum to overturn SB45, which sought to deny injured workers their protected benefits. The citizen veto, was supported overwhelmingly and SB45 was aborted before it could be put into effect.


The Ohio AFL-CIO led a coalition-backed effort to amend the Ohio Constitution to raise Ohio’s minimum wage and adjust it annually to inflation.


The state federation was instrumental in overturning SB5 by statewide referendum by a 2-1 margin.  SB5 sought to decimate the state’s collective bargaining law.