Clio Logo

The American Federation of Labor Building is a seven-story building in Downtown Washington, D.C. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974, this building once housed the American Federation of Labor, which Samuel Gompers described as "the strongest, best organized labor movement of all the world." The facade the AFL/Pipefitters Union Building of was incorporated into the Washington Marriott Marquis hotel, which opened in 2014. The hotel primarily serves the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.


  • Washington Marriott Marquis in downtown Washington, D.C. Image by Farragutful - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35992139
  • Samuel Gompers in the office of the American Federation of Labor, 1887

By the mid-1800s, the craftsmen had formed a strong labor movement in the United States. In 1886, a federation of craft unions disaffected from the Knights of Labor, a national labor association, to form the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Founded in Columbus, Ohio, the AFL was the first enduring national labor union. Its first president, Samuel Gompers (formerly the head of the Cigar Makers' International Union) called the AFL "the strongest, best organized labor movement of all the world."1 Under his leadership, the AFL advocated the philosophy of "business unionism,"2 which focused on business profits, national economic growth, and improving the condition of workers—including women—without taking much of a political stance.

The AFL would go on to become the largest union grouping in the country for the first half of the 20th century, eventually merging with its longtime rival, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), to become the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO is currently the largest federation of unions in the United States.

The American Federation of Labor/Pipefitters Union Building is a Chicago school brick and limestone building. It was constructed in 1916 on the site of a former slave-owner's mansion. President Woodrow Wilson delivered the chief address when the new international headquarters for the AFL was dedicated on the 4th of July. The seven-story building housed the labor organization for 40 years.

In 1974, the AFL building was declared a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2010, construction began on the Washington Marriott Marquis. The stone facade the AFL Building of was incorporated into the glass and steel Neomodern convention center headquarters hotel, which opened in 2014 in response to the construction of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The four-star hotel has 14 stories above ground, four stories below, and 1,175 rooms.

1. "American Federation of Labor Building." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed November 13, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Federation_of_Labor_Building.

2. "American Federation of Labor." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed November 13, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Federation_of_Labor.

"Washington Marriott Marquis." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed November 13, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Marriott_Marquis.

"Samuel Gompers and the American Federation of Labor." UH - Digital History. Accessed November 13, 2016. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3193.