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John Fitzpatrick and the CFL

John Fitzpatrick and the CFL

John Fitzpatrick, n.d.
John Fitzpatrick played a prominent role in the struggle to oust gangsters from the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL), gaining support from middle-class progressives and reformers throughout the city. Elected president of the CFL in 1904, he held this office, with one brief interruption, until his death of a heart attack in 1946.

Born in Ireland, Fitzpatrick immigrated to the United States in 1882. He worked for three years in the stockyards before apprenticing as a blacksmith, joining the International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers, and smithing for more than a decade, during which time he became increasingly active in the local labor movement.

Fitzpatrick's most intense activism was during World War I. Under his leadership, the CFL oversaw mass organizing drives in the steel and meatpacking industries and supported the effort to unionize female teachers and clerical workers. Fitzpatrick welcomed all workers into the CFL, utilizing their organizational talents and muting the inevitable factional disputes that arose. Thoroughly committed to the interests of the working class as a whole, Fitzpatrick made the CFL one of the more dynamic and powerful local labor bodies in the country.