Samuel Gompers (Samuel Gompers)

Samuel Gompers

Labor Leader. He was born in London and together with his family immigrated to America in 1863. They lived on the Lower East Side, where he found work as a cigar-maker. In 1864 he joined the Cigar Makers’ International Union. He became an American citizen in 1872. Gompers had seen what things were like for the workers back in England when they weren’t paid enough and had to work under terrible conditions, and knew that as much as some of his co-workers might complain, they still weren’t as bad off as the workers he had known as a boy. However, he knew things could still stand to be a lot better, and with this in mind, and inspired by the ideas of Socialism, he decided to do something to better their lot. In 1877 he instituted some radical changes in his union, such as organizing it with a hierarchy, charging higher membership dues, and creating programs for pension and strike funds. Gompers didn’t want to achieve things such as better wages, job security, and benefits such as disability pay through politics, but rather through strikes, boycotts, and negotiations. His ideas led to the development of collective bargaining and the management having contracts with the laborers. His union was so successful that many other unions began to adopt their ways and means. In 1881 he co-founded the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, which was restructured as the American Federation of Labor in 1886. Apart from the year 1894, Gompers served as the organization’s president for the rest of his life. With Gompers at the helm, the organization soared to new heights and became the most powerful and successful labor organization and union in America. However, his extreme opposition to radicalism and getting involved in politics, coupled with his preference for skilled laborers over unskilled laborers, indirectly led to a splinter group, the Industrial Workers of the World, splitting off from the AFL in 1905. During World War I he was appointed one of the members of the Council of National Defense by President Woodrow Wilson. As a member of the Council, he helped to form the War Committee on Labor and attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as a labor advisor. He passed away at the age of seventy-four. (bio by: Carrie-Anne)


  • January, 27, 1850
  • England


  • December, 12, 1924
  • USA


  • Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
  • USA

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