George Meany was one of the most influential labor leaders in American history. He served as president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) from 1952 to 1955, and was the president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) from 1955 until his retirement in 1979.
The merger of the AFL and CIO in 1955 brought together most of the major unions in the United States. Meany was born in 1894 in New York City. He became a plumber's apprentice at age sixteen and at age twenty-two became a journeyman with Local 463. His career as a union leader began in 1922 when he became business agent for his local. The following year he was elected secretary-treasurer of the New York State Building Trades Council.
Early in the Roosevelt administration, Meany was elected president of the New York State Federation of Labor. He was chosen secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Labor in 1939 and served in that position until succeeding William Green as federation president in 1952. During the twenty-seven years he served as president of the AFL-CIO, Meany lobbied successfully for Medicare and Medicaid, for increases in the minimum wage, and for inclusion of the workplace in the areas covered by the Civil Rights Act.