Samuel Gompers (founder of the American Federation of Labor

Samuel Gompers (founder of the American Federation of Labor) views
on urban living conditions and solutions for improving living conditions.
-wanted to build the labor movement into a force powerful enough to transform the
economic, social, and political statuses of America’s workers.
- he advocated craft or trades unionism, which restricted union membership to wage
earners and grouped workers into locals based on their trade or craft identification
- believed in pure and simple unionism that focused primarily on economic rather than
political reform as the best way of securing workers’ rights and welfare.
- when political action was necessary, labor should follow the course of polticial
- best way of enhancing political leverage of labor was to articulate an independent
political agenda seek the endorsement of existing political parties for the agenda and
mobilize members to vote for those supporting labor's agenda.
- “What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and
less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and
less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures,”
- “Where trade unions are most firmly organized, there are the rights of the people most
- “The trade union movement represents the organized economic power of the workers...
It is in reality the most potent and the most direct social insurance the workers can
- unionists should accept the standing economic system (Gompers was politically
- his competitors wished to destroy capitalism (they were socialists)
- opposed unrestricted European Immigration because it lowered wages, and Asian
immigrants lowered wages and were a group of people that could not easily be
assimilated into American society and culture
- strong supporter of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
- And what have our unions done? What do they aim to do? To improve the standard of
life, to uproot ignorance and foster education, to instill character, manhood and
independent spirit among our people; to bring about a recognition of the interdependence
of man upon his fellow man. We aim to establish a normal work-day, to take the children
from the factory and workshop and give them the opportunity of the school and the play-
ground. In a word, our unions strive to lighten toil, educate their members, make their
homes more cheerful, and in every way contribute an earnest effort toward making life
the better worth living. (McClure's Magazine, Feb. 1912)
wanted better hours, wages, and working conditions
chief weapon were the walkout and the boycott