The American Federation Of Labor Grants A Charter To Granite Quarry Workers

The American Federation of Labor granted a charter to the granite quarry workers of Barre, Vermont on September 8, 1903.

To document the lives of workers whose union standards outpaced the nation's, writers from the Federal Writers' Project interviewed Barre quarrymen in the early 1940s. Many of these interviews are in the American Memory collection American Life Histories, 1936-1940.

One of the workers' chief concerns was stonecutters' tuberculosis, a deadly condition caused by inhaling airborne granite particles. Labor unions organized to insist employers install dust-removing equipment. One Vermont granite worker explained, the workers were "pretty well resigned to their fate. These stonecutters expect that one day sooner or later they will get [stonecutters' tuberculosis]." Interviewed in an era when when workers' rights were very narrowly construed.

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was one of the first federations of labor unions in the United States. It was founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1886 by Samuel Gompers as a reorganization of its predecessor, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. Gompers became president of the AFL in 1886 and was reelected every year except one until his death on December 13, 1924.

The AFL was the largest union grouping in the United States for the first half of the twentieth century, even after the creation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) by unions that left the AFL in 1934 over its opposition to organizing mass production industries. While the federation was founded and dominated by craft unions throughout the first fifty years of its existence, many of its craft union affiliates turned to organizing on an industrial basis to meet the challenge from the CIO in the 1940s.

Take granite out of Barre, and it would be like taking the Capitol out of Montpelier. ”

— President of the Barre, Vermont Chamber of Commerce