Samuel Gompers: Editorial on the Pullman Strike

(1894)

After flirting with Marxism in his youth, Samuel Gompers played a leading role in developing craft trade unionism, serving as president of the American Federation of Labor for all but one year from its founding in 1886 until his death in 1924. An opponent of Socialism, Gompers advocated in his speeches and writings for the AFL a faith in voluntarism—a philosophy by which craft unions enjoyed considerable local autonomy. He also believed that better conditions for workers could be obtained through collective bargaining rather than legislative action. The nonpartisanship of Gompers and the AFL, however, was abandoned in 1912 with the endorsement of Woodrow Wilson for president. Labor’s alliance with Wilson’s Democratic administration, as well as cooperation with the National Civic Federation, provided Gompers with considerable influence on the national stage, although Gompers and labor played less of a role in the Republican administrations of the 1920s. His August 1894...

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Samuel Gompers (Library of Congress)

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