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Samuel Gompers
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Advocate
    (January 27, 1850-December 13, 1924)
    Born in London, United Kingdom
    Founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL)
    AFL President (1886-94,1895-1924)
    His name is sometimes given as 'Samuel L. Gompers,' but he did not have a middle name.
    He was a cigar maker.
    Although he learned about collective bargaining and organizing a union from socialists, he later declared 'Socialists have uniformly been men whose minds have been warped by a great failure.'
    He supported immigration restrictions, including a complete ban on allowing Chinese immigrants.
    He clashed with rival unions, such as Bill Haywood's International Workers of the World, and supported the government's mass arrest of IWW officials after the First World War.
    At ten, he had to leave school and become an apprentice cigar maker to help support the family.
    Three of his children died in infancy.
    He led a young State Assemblyman named Teddy Roosevelt on a tour of New York City slums, promting Roosevelt to support anti-sweatshop legislation (1882).
    He successfully campaigned for shorter working hours, higher wages and improved working conditions.
    He said, 'What does labor want? We want more school houses and less jails. More books and less guns. More learning and less vice. More leisure and less greed. More justice and less revenge. We want more ... opportunities to cultivate our better natures.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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