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The AFL-CIO, a federation of over 50 labor unions and more than 13 million members as of 2005, was formed in 1955 with the merger of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to become the largest labor organization in the United States representing 85% of the country's unionized workers. This merger renewed an old but tenuous alliance between trade unions and industrial unions that had fractured in a bitter confrontation at the height of the Great Depression in 1935 at the AFL annual convention in Atlantic City. At issue was the failure of the AFL to support the organizing efforts of industrial workers who had become the engine of a national economy increasingly built on mass production.

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