Samuel Gompers

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Samuel Gompers
BirthplaceLondon, England
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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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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Gompers, Samuel

(1850–1924) labor leader; organizer of American Federation of Labor. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 203]
See: Labor
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
A rumor flitted about the room that AFL chieftain Samuel Gompers had just disembarked the U.S.S.
Nor has it budged from the style of "business unionism" developed by Samuel Gompers in the early twentieth century, in which unions act much like big insurance companies, offering their "consumers" the prospect of better wages and job security.
To make child labor reform possible, Sallee argues, Samuel Gompers and child-welfare advocates pursued their campaign in terms that resonated with a broad range of Southern interests, including the mill owners who benefited from low-paid child labor, poor white parents who depended on the wages of their children, and white Southerners, more generally, who resented any reform agenda that originated outside the region.
Thereafter, Samuel Gompers and the AFL served as important allies of organized workers in Puerto Rico.
Grondahl tells, in touching detail, how the young patrician TR took up Samuel Gompers' challenge to visit the teeming tenement houses where eight-year-olds slept on piles of tobacco leaves while their parents made cheap cigars.
Steve Tatton, editor of IDS Executive Compensation Review, said: 'It looks as though remuneration committees are taking their cue from the American union leader Samuel Gompers. When asked what the labour movement wanted, Gompers is said to have replied: 'More'.
His shipboard assignments included the: USS Iwo Jima, USS Forrestal, USS Saratoga, USS Takelma, USS Samuel Gompers and USS Leftwich.
Our board members have included George Wall Merck, Henry Ford, Anson Goodyear, Samuel Gompers, and Maurice Goddard.
Marcia Hill is a fifth-grade teacher at Samuel Gompers Elementary School in Philadelphia: "I'll be reading the following novels with my students: Cousins by Virginia Hamilton, Hoops by Walter Dean Myers, The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Gold Cadillac by Mildred Taylor.
Samuel Gompers, founder and long-time leader of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), rose out of the Cigarmakers Union in the latter decades of the nineteenth century.
Samuel Gompers, the AFL's president, understood the stakes: a long and perhaps bloody battle for a new economic order, or coming to an understanding with American capitalism that recognized unions' legitimacy in exchange for a share of the nation's economic prosperity.