Gompers, Samuel


Gompers, Samuel

biographical name

/

Samuel Gompers, 1911.—Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

(born Jan. 27, 1850, London, Eng.—died Dec. 13, 1924, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.) British-born U.S. labour leader, first president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). He immigrated to New York City with his family in 1863, where he became a cigar maker and a union organizer. Known for his opposition to radicalism, Gompers argued that unions should avoid political involvement and focus on economic goals, bringing about change through strikes and boycotts. He stressed the primacy of the national organization over local and international affiliations, and he emphasized the need for written contracts. In 1886 he led the national organization of cigar makers out of the Knights of Labor to form the AFL, of which he served as president from 1886 to 1924 (except 1895). See also AFL-CIO.

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