Labor’s Centennial

Robert Rauschenberg


This print celebrates the 100th anniversary of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the largest federation of labor unions in the United States, which traces its history to the founding of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions on November 15, 1881. In 1886, the organization changed its name to the American Federation of Labor, and in 1955, merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, founded in 1936.


Rauschenberg creates a composite portrait of the AFL-CIO, combining images of workers, protests, the hand-in-hand logo, and the labels of all the affiliated unions along the bottom. In a bright orange square at left, Rauschenberg depicts Lane Kirkland (1922 – 1999), president of the AFL-CIO from 1979 to 1995. Kirkland once remarked, “If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves.”