Samuel Gompers was president of the American Federation of Labor for almost forty years, between 1886 and 1924, and the nation's leading trade unionist and labor spokesman.
A cigarmaker by trade, an intellectual by nature, and a skilled organizer and administrator by vocation, Gompers dedicated his life to the working class. He was a passionate advocate of shorter hours, higher wages, safe and sanitary working conditions, and collective bargaining with employers. And he believed that strong, well-financed trade unions would humanize industry, protect workers' interests, and in the process, create opportunities for workers to educate themselves and claim a larger role in industrial society. Essentially, Gompers promoted the idea that economic organization was the key to a more satisfying life, in and out of the shop.