George Meany is, for all intents and purposes, the father of the U.S. labor movement. His contribution to labor won him the highest civilian honor, the presidential medal of freedom, conferred upon him by Lyndon Johnson, who said of Meany: “Citizen and national leader, in serving the cause of labor, he has greatly served the cause of his Nation and of freedom throughout the world.”
One of his major accomplishments was the merger of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) on December 5th, 1955. This act formed the largest federation of labor unions in the United States.
From the George Meany Memorial Archives website:
“During the Meany years, the AFL-CIO became an effective, driving champion of the rights of the oppressed and the needy. He was an outspoken defender of individual freedom. The AFL-CIO he headed was the driving force behind national policies for social change, and improved employment conditions in America attest to the success of those efforts.”
The relationship between labor and the civil rights movement may not be fully appreciated today. Meany played a role in helping improve the lives of both working class people as well as racial minorities.