Samuel Gompers Biography

Samuel Gompers (1850-1924), founded “The American Federation of Labor (AFL)” which created not only an economic impact for workers, but also gave them proper representation against large scale companies. The AFL became the largest and most effective labor federation in the world, as it grew substantially over time from 50,000 members in 1886 to over 3 million in 1924. Thus, creating a voice for the working class people as they felt mistreated from large scale corporations and took advantage of the workers by offering little compensation for many hours of work. His sole purpose as the President of the AFL was to self empower the working class people, in a sense promoting solidarity and aid to those in need. In the late 19th century the second industrial revolution took over the United States following the Civil War, leading to a mass boost in the economy and making the U.S. the biggest industrial powerhouse in the world at the time. This led to many technological advancements during this period. Also, many big businessmen began to take advantage of the lack of restriction on business at the time, which allowed them to form massive monopolies and could mistreat their employees with no disciplinary action taken against them.These situations sparked outrage and a need for change among the working class people. Samuel Gompers who was apart of the commission for “Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions” as vice president at the time, sought out to change such mistreatment amongst the working class people and further transform their economic status. He held himself to the basic principle of unionism as the best way to approach the problems presented to the people. In doing so, he shifted the movement into a more economic mindset rather than a political reform. When he was first elected president of the AFL commission in 1886, Gomper emphasised fairness of pay and working hours for the people, leading to a nationwide general strike in support of an eight hour work day. Toward the end of the 1890’s, membership of the AFL began to grow substantially, more so than any other point in the American Union Movement. With such growth caused conflict within the movement, as seen through the constant law suites presented by nonunion employers, forcing Gombert to take a more political approach regarding the union movement. Thus, leading to an overall impact on both economical and political aspects of American society, making Samuel Gombert a true American hero and changing the values of the working class people.