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by exploration97
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Social Studies
American History

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February 7th, 2014 Volume I, Series I, Issue I

Samuel Gompers A Life of Ahievement, Remembered An Editorial by Staff Writier, Kevin Dooley

Pg. 2

Despite much opposition to unionism during the most of the AFoL’s lifespan, it flourished throughout Gompers’ business-oriented leadership. Membership found its way from 50,000 to three million over his tenure. Anti-union employers often applied offensive measures such as reporting them as trusts, but Gompers successfully fought this by taking political initiative and encouraging the election of AFoL’s beneficiaries who would protect the AFoL. He would eventually be appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to the Council of National Defense, and during World War I, he secured unfettered support for and membership in unions during and after the war. Through his unremitting hard work and incorrigibly socialist ideologies, Samuel Gompers achieves universal consensus among historians that he is the most important historical figure of organized labor of all time.

For 39 of the 40 years before his death (, excluding 1895), Gompers was consistently elected president of the AFoL. Under Gompers, AFoL gradually superseded the Knights of Labor in influence and membership (in part due to the Knights' defaming and erroneous association with the bombing during the Haymarket march by radical socialists (who were not formally affiliated with the Knights at all)). Through AFoL, Gompers heavily employed his belief that economic and social change through organization into a union is the best way to improve labor conditions, NOT taking political action, wading through seas of lobbying for beneficial policies and surrendering power over society to politicians who could tear down labor rights as easily as they could build them. When he did allow the AFoL to become increasingly politically active towards the 20th century, he maintained that it should appeal to all parties and politicians as best as possible.

Over its first five years, FOTLU was quickly unsuccessful, with having several costly, ineffective strikes, and having most of its members either join or be incredibly uninvolved with the federation. Its opponent, Knights of Labor, also saw much success during the period, absorbing many (as in most) potential members, despite some factions of the Knights having close formal ties to unions that were part of FOTLU. Eventually, FOTLU and the Knights called a truce on terms that the Knights would engage in more honest business procedures and that FOTLU wouldn't exercise its underlying strength over the Knights through its control over the Knights' affiliates. With less than $250 in its treasury, on December 8th, 1886, FOTLU's losses were cut short by Gompers, and he congratulated its members on their only half success, the eight hour work day (which companies quickly ignored), and he dissolved the federation. FOTLU's former members immediately reorganized into the American Federation of Labor.

Under Gompers, the AFoL strongly opposed unrestricted immigration due to immigrants’ cheap labor that usually cost present citizens their jobs. Despite initially being open to all demographics, over time, AFoL also became increasingly discriminatory against blacks based on Gompers’ conclusion that blacks hadn’t had rights long enough to fully appreciate them, or become skilled and educated enough to have labor rights worth unionizing for. Similar to its underlying racism, women were heavily turned away from AFoL based in part on cultural conditions that still did not approve of having strong presence of females in the labor force, and they were also seen as more likely to cave in during strikes and as too unskilled to be seen as leverage against employers for higher wages.


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