Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Consumer Culture

Publication Date



This article examines the role consumer tactics played in the American Federation of Labor's (AFL) strategy of business unionism. In particular, it explains how the AFL used its consumer tactics to try to mobilize the purchasing power of union members and their families to fight for higher wages and shorter working hours. The historical data collected for this article demonstrates that the AFL was not ignorant of the relationship between production and consumption, or the worker and the consumer. I discuss how the AFL used its consumer tactics to try to build solidarity across its affiliated trade unions and provide a way for the wives, daughters, and mothers of union men to become involved in the labor movement through consumption. I argue that these consumer tactics need to be fully acknowledged, as they were pivotal in some of the most contentious struggles between the AFL and business at the turn of the 20th century.