Author: Samuel Gompers

Samuel Gompers, photo by J.E. Purdy, 1902

Samuel Gompers (1850–1924) was the first and longest serving president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), holding the office nearly continuously from 1886 until his death in 1924. Gompers was born in England and put to work at the age of ten as a cigar maker. The young Gompers continued in this trade as a teenager when his family immigrated to New York City, where he soon became involved in the labor movement. In 1875, at the age of twenty-five, he was elected president of his local union, and, in 1896, was made the first vice-president of the Cigarmakers’ International Union—a position he held until his death.

The Significance of Labor Day

Samuel Gompers

Samuel Gompers (1850–1924) was the first and longest serving president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), holding the office nearly continuously from 1886 until his death in 1924. Gompers was born in England and put to work at the age of ten as a cigar maker. In 1875, at the age of 25, he was elected president of his local union, and, in 1896, was made the first vice president of the Cigarmakers’ International Union—a position he held until his death. Gompers became an early advocate of a national Labor Day celebration, and in this selection, originally published on September 4, 1910, in the New York Times, he explains the day’s significance.

What Does the Working Man Want?

Samuel Gompers

In this International May Day address delivered in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1890 (20 years before his speech on “The Significance of Labor Day” ), Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), argues for the importance of the eight-hour workday. Like many labor leaders, Gompers protests the injustices of the industrial process, which treats workers as nothing more than “a veritable machine.”