Samuel Gompers


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Samuel Gompers
Birthday
BirthplaceLondon, England
Died
Occupation
Labor leader, cigar maker

Gompers, Samuel

(gŏm`pərz), 1850–1924, American labor leader, b. London. He emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1863. He worked as a cigar maker and in 1864 joined the local union, serving as its president from 1874 to 1881, when he helped to found the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. It was reorganized in 1886 and became the American Federation of Labor, of which Gompers was first president and of which he remained president, except for the year 1895, until his death. He directed the successful battle with the Knights of LaborKnights of Labor,
American labor organization, started by Philadelphia tailors in 1869, led by Uriah S. Stephens. It became a body of national scope and importance in 1878 and grew more rapidly after 1881, when its earlier secrecy was abandoned.
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 for supremacy, kept the union free from political entanglements in the early days, and refused to entertain various cooperative business plans, socialistic ideas, and radical programs, maintaining that more wages, shorter hours, and greater freedom were the just aims of labor. He came to be recognized as the leading spokesman for the labor movement, and his pronouncements carried much weight. During World War I, he organized and headed the War Committee on Labor; and as a member of the Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense, he helped to hold organized labor loyal to the government program. A man of great personal integrity, he did much to make organized labor respected. See American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial OrganizationsAmerican Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
(AFL-CIO), a federation of autonomous labor unions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, and U.S.
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.

Bibliography

See his autobiography, Seventy Years of Life and Labor (1925, repr. 1967); the Samuel Gompers Papers (ed. by S. B. Kaufman, 2 vol., 1986–87); biographies by W. Chasan (1971) and G. E. Stearn, ed. (1971); L. S. Reed, The Labor Philosophy of Samuel Gompers (1930, repr. 1966); F. C. Thorne, Samuel Gompers, American Statesman (1957, repr. 1969); S. B. Kaufman, Samuel Gompers and the Origins of the American Federation of Labor, 1848–1896 (1973).

Gompers, Samuel

 

Born Jan. 27, 1850, in London; died Dec. 13, 1924, in San Antonio, Texas. USA trade union figure and reformist.

Gompers moved to the USA from Great Britain in 1863 and began to work in the tobacco industry. In 1881 he actively participated in the formation of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada (after 1886, the American Federation of Labor, or AF of L). From 1882 to 1924 (except 1895) he was chairman of the federation. He opposed the participation of the working class in the political struggle, maintaining that trade unions should confine themselves to economic questions. V. I. Lenin pointed out that people like Gompers “are nothing but representatives of the aristocracy and bureaucracy of the working class” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, p. 73). Gompers participated in the formation of reformist international labor alliances—the Pan-American Federation of Labor (1918) and the Amsterdam International of Trade Unions (1919). During World War I (1914–18), he took a chauvinistic stand. He was extremely hostile toward Soviet Russia and opposed recognition of the USSR.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 25, p. 106; vol. 27, p. 73; vol. 37, pp. 64, 113, 297, 391, 454–55, 458; vol. 39, p. 190; vol. 41, pp. 35, 38. 268.
Mandel, B. Samuel Gompers: A Biography. Yellow Springs [Ohio], 1963.

Gompers, Samuel

(1850–1924) labor leader; organizer of American Federation of Labor. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 203]
See: Labor

Gompers, Samuel

(1850–1924) labor leader; born in London, England. Born to Dutch-Jewish immigrant parents in London, Gompers left school at age ten to begin work as a cigar maker. He emigrated to New York in 1863, where he joined Local 15 of the Cigarmakers' International Union (CMIU) in 1864. Elected CMIU vice-president in 1886, he was a founder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and served as its president (1886–95, 1896–1924). A Marxist in his early days, he turned against the socialists in the AFL, championing a "pure and simple" trade unionism that was hostile to independent labor political action, industrial unionism, and government intervention in the sphere of labor relations. As unions in general and the AFL in particular gained in power and status, he himself became the major figure in the American labor movement and a highly respected figure in American public life. He served as a member of the Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense (1917–18), and as a member of the American delegation to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. His important autobiography, Seventy Years of Life and Labor, was published in 1925.
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Samuel Gompers, the legendary head of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), was a cigar maker's son who apprenticed as a shoemaker and later as a cigar maker.