Kirkland, Lane (Joseph Lane Kirkland)kûr´klənd [key], 1922–99, American labor leader, president (1979–95) of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), b. Camden, S.C. He was an executive assistant (1960–69) to AFL-CIO president George Meany and (1969–79) its secretary-treasurer. Succeeding Meany as president of AFL-CIO in 1979, Kirkland made consolidation of the labor movement a major goal and oversaw the reentry of the United Automobile Workers (1981), Teamsters (1988), and United Mine Workers (1989) into the organization. A staunch anti-Communist, he was also an influential supporter of Poland's Solidarity movement. Although union membership remained stable during Kirkland's tenure as the head of organized labor, the percentage of nonfarm workers who were union members decreased, and labor saw its political clout diminish. Increasing dissatisfaction among AFL-CIO member unions with the state of organized labor led Kirkland to retire in 1995.
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