January 27, 1850|
December 13, 1924
San Antonio, Texas
|Occupation||Labor leader, cigar maker|
Gertrude Gleaves Neuscheler
Samuel Gompers (January 27, 1850 – December 13, 1924) was an emancipating labor. He also encouraged the AFL to take political action to "elect their friends" and "defeat their enemies". During World War I, Gompers and the AFL openly supported the war effort, attempting to avoid strikes and boost morale while raising wage rates and expanding membership.
- Early life 1
- Young worker at the bench 2
- Cigarmakers' International Union career 3
Leading the AFL 4
- Immigration and foreign affairs 4.1
- Philosophy 4.2
- Freemason 4.3
- Death and legacy 5
- Quotes 6
- Other books and pamphlets 7.1
- 7.2 Articles
- See also 8
- Footnotes 9
Further reading 10
- Archival collections 10.1
- External links 11
Samuel Gompers was born on January 27, 1850, in London, into a Jewish family which originally hailed from Amsterdam. When he was six, Samuel was sent to the Jewish Free School where he received a basic education. His elementary school career was brief, however, as a mere three months after his 10th birthday, Gompers was removed from school and sent to work as an apprentice cigarmaker to help earn money for his impoverished family.
Gompers was able to continue his studies in night school, however, during which time he learned Hebrew and studied the Talmud, a process which he long later recalled was akin to studying law. While familiar with the ancient Hebrew language, Gompers did not speak it and held a lifelong disdain for Yiddish.
Young worker at the bench
Owing to dire financial straits, the Gompers family immigrated to the United States in 1863, settling on Manhattan's Lower East Side in New York City. Gompers' father was engaged in the manufacture of cigars at home, assisted for the first year and half by Samuel. In his free time, the young teenager formed a debate club with his friends, an activity which provided practical experience in public speaking and parliamentary procedure. The club drew Gompers into contact with other upwardly mobile young men of the city, including a young Irish-American named Peter J. McGuire who would later play a large role in the AFL.
In 1864, at the age of 14, Gompers joined and became involved in the activities of Cigarmakers' Local Union No. 15, the English-speaking union of cigar makers in New York City. Gompers later recounted his days as a cigar maker at the bench in detail, emphasizing the place of craftsmanship in the production process:
"Any kind of an old loft served as a cigar shop. If there were enough windows, we had sufficient light for our work; if not, it was apparently no concern of the management.... Cigar shops were always dusty from the tobacco stems and powdered leaves. Benches and work tables were not designed to enable the workmen to adjust bodies and arms comfortably to work surface. Each workman supplied his own cutting board of lignum vitae and knife blade.
"The tobacco leaf was prepared by strippers who drew the leaves from the heavy stem and put them into pads of about fifty. The leaves had to be handled carefully to prevent tearing. The craftsmanship of the cigarmaker was shown in his ability to utilize wrappers to the best advantage to shave off the unusable to a hairbreadth, to roll so as to cover holes in the leaf and to use both hands so as to make a perfectly shaped and rolled product. These things a good cigarmaker learned to do more or less mechanically, which left us free to think, talk, listen, or sing. I loved the freedom of that work, for I had earned the mind-freedom that accompanied skill as a craftsman. I was eager to learn from discussion and reading or to pour out my feelings in song."
The day after his 17th birthday, he married his co-worker, 16-year-old Sophia Julian. They had a series of children in rapid succession, with six surviving infancy.
In 1873, Gompers moved to the cigarmaker David Hirsch & Company, a "high-class shop where only the most skilled workmen were employed". Gompers later called this change of employers "one of the most important changes in my life", for at Hirsch's—a union shop operated by an émigré German socialist—Gompers came into contact with an array of German-speaking cigarmakers—"men of keener mentality and wider thought than any I had met before," he recalled. Gompers learned German and absorbed many of the ideas of his shopmates, developing a particular admiration for the ideas of the former secretary of the International Workingmen's Association, Karl Laurrell. Laurrell took Gompers under his wing, challenging his more simplistic ideas and urging Gompers to put his faith in the organized economic movement of trade unionism rather than the socialist political movement.
Gompers later recalled:
"I remember asking Laurrell whether in his opinion I ought to keep in touch with the Socialist movement. He replied, 'Go to their meetings by all means, listen to what they have to say and understand them, but do not join the Party.' I never did, though it was my habit to attend their Saturday evening meetings. There were often good speakers present and the discussions were stimulating. * * *
"Time and again, under the lure of new ideas, I went to Laurrell with glowing enthusiasm. Laurrel would gently say, 'Study your union card, Sam, and if the idea doesn't square with that, it ain't true.' My trade union card came to be my standard in all new problems."
Gompers complained that the socialist movement had been captured by Lassallean advocates of "political party action" rather than the "militant economic program of Marx". He warned delegates to the 1900 annual convention that when men became enthusiastic about socialism, "they usually lost interest in their union".
Cigarmakers' International Union career
Gompers was elected president of Cigarmakers' International Union Local 144 in 1875.
As was the case with other unions of the day, the Cigarmaker's Union nearly collapsed in the financial crisis of 1877, in which unemployment skyrocketed and ready availability of desperate workers willing to labor for subsistence wages put pressure upon the gains in wages and shortening of hours achieved in union shops. Gompers and his friend Adolph Strasser used Local 144 as a base to rebuild the Cigarmakers' Union, introducing a high dues structure and implementing programs to pay out-of-work benefits, sick benefits, and death benefits for union members in good standing.
Gompers told the workers they needed to organize because wage reductions were almost a daily occurrence. The capitalists were only interested in profits, "and the time has come when we must assert our rights as workingmen. Every one present has the sad experience, that we are powerless in an isolated condition, while the capitalists are united; therefore it is the duty of every Cigar Maker to join the organization. ... One of the main objects of the organization," he concluded, "is the elevation of the lowest paid worker to the standard of the highest, and in time we may secure for every person in the trade an existence worthy of human beings."
He was elected second vice-president of the Cigarmakers' International Union in 1886, and first vice-president in 1896. Despite the commitment of time and energy entailed by his place as head of the American Federation of Labor, Gompers remained first vice-president of the Cigarmakers until his death in December 1924.
Leading the AFL
Gompers helped found the American Federation of Labor, with Gompers as its president. He would remain president of the organization until his death (with the exception of one year, 1895).
Under Gompers's tutelage, the AF of L coalition gradually gained strength, undermining the position previously held by the Knights of Labor, which as a result had almost vanished by 1900. He was nearly jailed in 1911 for publishing with John Mitchell a boycott list, but the Supreme Court overturned the sentence in Gompers v. Buck's Stove and Range Co..
Immigration and foreign affairs
Gompers, who had ties with the Cuban cigar workers in the U.S., called for American intervention in Cuba; he supported the resulting war with Spain in 1898. After the war, however, he joined the Anti-Imperialist League to oppose President William McKinley's plan to annex the Philippines. Mandel (1963) argues that his anti-imperialism was based on opportunistic fears of threats to labor's status from low-paid offshore workers and was founded on a sense of racial superiority to the peoples of the Philippines.
By the 1890s Gompers was planning an international federation of labor, starting with the expansion of AFL affiliates in Canada, especially Ontario. He helped the Canadian
AF of L President
AF of L President
|Awards and achievements|
John Pierpont Morgan, Jr.
Cover of Time
1 October 1923
H. H. Asquith
- The Samuel Gompers Papers Project website, University of Maryland, College Park.—Includes index to published volumes of Gompers' papers.
- Samuel Gompers at Find a Grave
- Samuel Gompers, "Labor's Service to Freedom". 1918 audio recording, Library of Congress, American Memory Project.
- Samuel Gompers Centennial Committee Records. 2 Microfilm reels. At the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.
- Babcock, Robert H., Gompers in Canada: A Study in American Continentalism before the First World War. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974.
- Bernstein, Irving, The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker, 1920–1933. 1960.
- Bernstein, Irving, "Samuel Gompers and Free Silver, 1896". Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol, 29, no. 3 (December 1942).
- Buhle, Paul, Taking Care of Business: Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999.
- Currarino, Rosanne, "The Politics of 'More': The Labor Question and the Idea of Economic Liberty in Industrial America". Journal of American History. 93:1 (June 2003).
- Fink, Gary M., ed. Biographical Dictionary of American Labor. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984.
- Foner, Philip S. History of the Labor Movement in the United States. In 10 volumes. New York: International Publishers, 1947–1991.
- Greene, Julie. Pure and Simple Politics: The American Federation of Labor and Political Activism, 1881–1917. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
- Grubbs, Jr. Frank L. The Struggle for Labor Loyalty: Gompers, the A. F. of L., and the Pacifists, 1917–1920. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1968.
- Livesay, Harold C. Samuel Gompers and Organized Labor in America. Boston: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, Inc., 1987.
- Mandel, Bernard, Samuel Gompers: A Biography. New York: Penguin Group, 1963.
- Mandel, Bernard, "Gompers and Business Unionism, 1873-90". Business History Review. 28:3 (September 1954).
- Mandel, Bernard, "Samuel Gompers and the Negro Workers, 1886–1914". Journal of Negro History. vol. 40, no. 1 (January 1955).
- Mink, Gwendolyn, Old Labor and New Immigrants in American Political Development: Union, Party, and State, 1875–1920. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.
- Montgomery, David, The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865–1925. New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1987.
- Reed, Louis, The Labor Philosophy of Samuel Gompers. Columbia University Press, 1930.
- Taft, Philip, The A.F. of L. in the Time of Gompers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957.
- Van Tine, Warren R., The Making of the Labor Bureaucrat: Union Leadership in the United States, 1870–1920. 1973.
- Whittaker, William George, "Samuel Gompers, Anti-Imperialist". Pacific Historical Review. vol. 38, no. 4 (November 1969).
- His name sometimes appears as "Samuel L. Gompers", but he had no middle name.
- Gompers Pledges Labor's Support for WWI, History Channel Online, retrieved 21 July 2011
- Venzon, Anne C. and Miles, Paul L., The United States in the First World War: An Encyclopedia, Routledge Press, ISBN 0-8153-3353-6, ISBN 978-0-8153-3353-1 (1999), p. 261
- Samuel Gompers, Seventy Years of Life and Labor. 1925; vol. 1, p. 2.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, p. 6.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, pp. 6-7.
- In his posthumously-published memoirs, Gompers notes, "I was taught Hebrew—not the mongrel language spoken and written by many Jews of the present age." See: Gompers, Seventy Years of Life and Labor, vol. 1, p. 6.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, pp. 24, 35.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, p. 28.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, p. 38.
- Gompers, Seventy Years of Life and Labor, vol. 1, pp. 44-45.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, pp. 35-36.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, p. 68.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, pp. 68-69.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, p. 70.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, pp. 74-75.
- Gompers, Seventy Year of Life and Labor, vol. 1, p. 84.
- Stuart Bruce Kaufman, Peter J. Albert and Grace Palladino, eds. The Samuel Gompers Papers (1996) vol 5 p 284
- Mandel, Samuel Gompers: A Biography, 1963, p. 22.
- Mandel, Gompers pp 201-204
- Robert H. Babcock, Gompers in Canada: A Study in American Continentalism before the First World War (1974)
- Thousands of Chinese entered the U.S. illegally, but nearly all lived and worked in Chinatowns where they did not compete with union labor. The restrictions were repealed in 1943.
- Mink, Old Labor and New Immigrants in American Political Development: Union, Party, and State, 1875-1920, 1986.
- Asher, "Review: Gwendolyn Mink, Old Labor and New Immigrants in American Political Development: Union, Party, and State, 1875-1920," Journal of American History, March 1988.
- Frank L. Grubbs, The Struggle for Labor Loyalty: Gompers, the A. F. of L., and the Pacifists, 1917–1920. (1968).
- Larson, Erik, "Devil In The White City, Crown Publishers, 2003, p. 315
- A Pictorial History of American Labor, William Cahn, 1972, page 139.
- Melvyn Dubofsky, 'Big Bill' Haywood, 1987, page 17.
- Heron, Professor A (1954) Reasonable Goals In Industrial Relations, Stanford University Press, https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=rC6iAAAAIAAJ
- Bernard Mandel, "Gompers and Business Unionism, 1873-90". Business History Review 28:3 (September 1954)
- Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World. (2000)
- Peter Carlson, Roughneck, The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, 1983, page 97.
- Charles W. Toth, "Samuel Gompers, Communism, and the Pan American Federation of Labor," The Americas (1967): 273-278. in JSTOR
- John H.M. Laslett, Labor and the left: a study of socialist and radical influences in the American labor movement, 1881-1924 (1970)
- Peter J. Albert and Grace Palladino, "Introduction" to The Samuel Gompers Papers: Volume 12: The Last Years, 1922-24. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010; p. xx.
- The cause of the collapse was probably myocardial infarction, although no medical diagnosis was ever reported.
- "End Comes On Home Soil," Associated Press, December 14, 1924.
- June 18, 1961, entry in Journals of David E. Lilienthal, 1971.
- Philip Taft, The A.F. of L. in the Time of Gompers (1957); Mandel (1954)
- "Samuel Gompers Statue Unveiled", press release, Office of Ald. Margaret Laurino, City of Chicago, September 3, 2007.
- Mandel, "Samuel Gompers and the Negro Workers," 56. Mandel points out (pp.56–57 n58) that Gompers believed in 1915 that "there are now two great groups of exploited workers in the United States—immigrants and women", ignoring Blacks altogether. More significant is the fact that Gompers devoted only two sentences to the subject in his 1,100-page autobiography, in which he blithely affirms the right of Blacks to organize. Samuel Gompers, Seventy Years of Life and Labor: An Autobiography, vol. 1 (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1925), 364. See also Karson and Radosh, The American Federation of Labor and the Negro Worker, 160.
- Foner, Philip S. History of the Labor Movement in the United States: The T.U.E.L. to the End of the Gompers Era. New York: International Publishers Co, 1991, p. 361–362.
- Quoted in Rothschild, Michael. Bionomics: Economy as Business Ecosystem. Washington, D.C.: BeardBooks, 1990, p. 115.
- Quoted in Mantsios, Gregory. A New Labor Movement for the New Century. Florence, Ky.: Taylor & Francis, 1998, p. 51.
- The Samuel Gompers Papers: Progress and Reaction in the Age of Reform, 1909-13 (2000), p. 137.
- , February 1912, p. 376McClure's MagazineGompers, Samuel. "Gompers Speaks for Labor".
- Gompers, Samuel. The Samuel Gompers Papers: The American Federation of Labor and the Great War, 1917–18. Stuart Bruce Kaufman, Peter J. Albert, and Grace Palladino, eds. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2006, p. 348.
- Gompers, Samuel. Proceedings of the Convention. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1923, p. 37.
- . January 1917, p. 47.The American FederationistGompers, Samuel. "Not Even Compulsory Benevolence Will Do".
- Murray, Stuart A. P. The Library: An Illustrated History. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012, p. 186.
- "The Limitations of Conciliation and Arbitration", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 20 (July 1902), pp. 29–34. in JSTOR
- "Organized Labor's Attitude toward Child Labor", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 27 (March 1906), pp. 79–83. in JSTOR
- "Attitude of Labor towards Government Regulation of Industry", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 32 (July 1908), pp. 75–81. in JSTOR
- "Free Speech and the Injunction Order", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 36, no. 2 (September 1910), pp. 1–10. in JSTOR
- "European War Influences upon American Industry and Labor", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 61, (September 1915), pp. 4–10. in JSTOR
- "Labor Standards after the War", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 81 (January 1919), pp. 182–186. in JSTOR
- "The Development and Accessibility of Production Records Essential to Intelligent and Just Determination of Wage-Rates", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 100 (March 1922), pp. 54–55. in JSTOR
- Address of Samuel Gompers, Before the Arbitration Conference, Held at Chicago, Ill. Dec. 17, 1900, Under the Auspices of the National Civic Federation. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1901.
- Meat vs. Rice: American Manhood against Asiatic Coolieism: Who Shall Survive? Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1902.
- Organized Labor: Its Struggles, Its Enemies and Fool Friends. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, n.d. .
- Essence of Labor's Contention on the Injunction Abuse. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1908.
- Speech Delivered October 13, 1908, at Dayton, Ohio. Denver: Carson-Harper, n.d. .
- Justice Wright's Denial of Free Speech and Free Press. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1909.
- .Labor in Europe and America: Personal Observations from an American Viewpoint of Life and Conditions of Working Men in Great Britain, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, ... [etc.] New York: Harper Brothers, 1910.
- The McNamara Case; Also, an Appeal for Funds to Secure a Fair and Impartial Trial. n.c. [Washington, D.C.]: McNamara Ways and Means Committee, n.d. .
- Investigation of Taylor System of Shop Management: Hearings before... Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1911.
- The American Labor Movement: Its Makeup, Achievements and Aspirations. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, n.d. .
- The Attitude of the American Federation of Labor toward Industrial Education. New York: C.S. Nathan, n.d. .
- The Essence of the Clayton Law. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, n.d. .
- The Double Edge of Labor's Sword: Discussion and Testimony on socialism and Trade-Unionism before the Commission on Industrial Relations. With Morris Hillquit and Max S. Hayes. Chicago: Socialist Party National Office, 1914.
- Labor and Antitrust Legislation: The Facts, Theory and Argument: A Brief and Appeal. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1914.
- The Workers and the Eight-Hour Workday; And, the Shorter Workday: Its Philosophy. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, n.d. .
- Preparedness for National Defense: An Address Delivered before the 16th Annual Meeting of the National Civic Federation on January 18, 1916, at Washington... Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1916.
- America's Fight for the Preservation of Democracy: An Address Delivered by Samuel Gompers at Minneapolis, Minn.: And the Declaration of Principles. n.c. [Washington, D.C.]: American Alliance for Labor and Democracy, 1917.
- Address by Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor: Under the Auspices of the National Security League at Chicago, September 14, 1917. New York: National Security League, 1917.
- Should a Political Labor Party be Formed? An address by Samuel Gompers ... to a labor conference held at New York city, December 9, 1918. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1918.
- Labour and the War: Speeches Delivered in the Canadian House of Commons, April 26, 1918 and Before the Canadian Club, Ottawa, April 27, 1918. Ottawa: [government publication], 1918.
- American Labor and the War. New York: G.H. Doran, 1919.
- Labor and the Common Welfare. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1919.
- Labor and the Employer. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1920.
- Collective Bargaining: Labor's Proposal to Insure Greater Industrial Peace: With Questions and Answers Explaining the Principle. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1920.
- Debate between Samuel Gompers and Henry J. Allen at Carnegie Hall, New York, May 28, 1920. With Harry Justin Allen. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1920.
- [Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, The Eight-Hour Workday: Its Inauguration, Enforcement, and Influences]. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, n.d. .
- Labor's Protest against a Rampant Tragedy. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1920.
- Samuel Gompers on the Kansas Court of Industrial Relations Law: "Laws to make strikes unlawful will not prevent them." Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1920.
- Letters to a Bishop: Correspondence between Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, and Bishop William A. Quayle, of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1920.
- The Union Shop and Its Antithesis. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1920.
- The Truth about Soviet Russia and Bolshevism. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, n.d. .
- Out of Their Own Mouths: A Revelation and an Indictment of Sovietism. With William English Walling. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1921.
- The Fundamental Issues: Present Industrial Controversies an Expression of Vital Conflict between Industry and Finance. New York: New York Times, 1922.
- Correspondence between Mr. Newton D. Baker, President of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor. With Newton D. Baker. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, 1923.
- Address of Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor: Before the Convention of the United Hatters of North America, New York City, April 16, 1923. Washington, D.C.: American Federation of Labor, n.d. .
Other books and pamphlets
- Seventy Years of Life and Labor: An Autobiography. In 2 volumes. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1925.
- Samuel Gompers Papers. Stuart Bruce Kaufman, Peter J. Albert, and Grace Palladino (eds.) In 12 volumes. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989–2010.
- Yes, accept his library, organize the workers, secure better conditions, and particularly reduction in hours of labor, and then workers will have some chance and leisure in which to read books.
- The trade union movement represents the organized economic power of the workers. Through the development, the organization and the exercise of this economic power the workers themselves establish higher standards of living and work. Although this economic power from the superficial standpoint appears indirect, it is in reality the most potent and the most direct social insurance the workers can establish.
- [The labor movement is] a movement of the working people, for the working people, by the working people, governed by ourselves, with its policies determined by ourselves...
- In many instances the conduct of colored workmen, and those who have spoken for them, has not been in asking or demanding that equal rights be accorded to them as to white workmen, but somehow conveying the idea that they are to be petted and coddled and given special consideration and special privilege. Of course that can't be done.
- 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.
- There are about 8,000,000 negroes in the United States, and, my friends, I not only have not the power to put the negro out of the labor movement, but I would not, even if I did have the power. Why should I do such a thing? I would have nothing to gain, but the movement would have much to lose. Under our policies and principles we seek to build up the labor movement, instead of injuring it, and we want all the negroes we can possibly get who will join hands with organized labor.
- 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.
- The worst crime against working people is a company which fails to operate at a profit.
- No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion. If we seek to force, we but tear apart that which united, is invincible. There is no way whereby our labor movement may be assured sustained progress in determining its policies and its plans other than sincere democratic deliberation until a unanimous decision is reached. This may seem a cumbrous, slow method to the impatient, but the impatient are more concerned for immediate triumph than for the education of constructive development.
- So long as we have held fast to voluntary principles and have been actuated and inspired by the spirit of service, we have sustained our forward progress, and we have made our labor movement something to be respected and accorded a place in the councils of the Republic. Where we have blundered into trying to force a policy or decision, even though wise and right, we have impeded if not interrupted the realization of our own aims.
- It was difficult to organize certain Black workers because, being only half a century removed from slavery, they did not have the same conception of their rights and duties as did the white workers and were unprepared for fully exercising and enjoying the possibilities existing in trade unionism.
Gompers is the subject of statuary in several major American cities. A bronze monument honoring Gompers by the sculptor Robert Aitken resides in Gompers Square on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C.. On September 3, 2007, a life-size statue of Gompers was unveiled at Gompers Park, named after the labor leader in 1929, on the northwest side of Chicago. This is the first statue of a labor leader in Chicago. Local unions throughout Chicago donated their time and money to build the monument. Gompers also had a U.S. Navy support ship and a class of U.S. Navy destroyer tenders named for him. The Samuel Gompers Houses, a public housing development on the Lower East Side of New York, is also named in his honor.
His belief led to the development of procedures for collective bargaining and contracts between labor and management which are still in use today. In practice, AF of L unions were important in industrial cities, where they formed a central labor office to coordinate the actions of different AF of L unions. Issues of wages and hours were the usual causes of strikes, but many strikes were assertions of jurisdiction, so that the plumbers, for example, used strikes to ensure that all major construction projects in the city used union plumbers. In this goal they were ideally supported by all the other construction unions in the AF of L fold.
 Gompers inspired later generations of labor leaders, such as
He collapsed in Mexico City on Saturday, December 6, 1924, while attending a meeting of the Pan-American Federation of Labor. It was recognized that his condition was critical and that he might not survive for long. Gompers expressed the desire to die on American soil, and he was placed aboard a special train and sped toward the border. Gompers was buried at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Gompers is buried only a few yards away from industrialist Andrew Carnegie, another important figure of industry in the Gilded Age.
Gompers' health went into serious decline starting in February 1923, when a serious bout of influenza sent him to the hospital, sidelining him from work for six weeks. No sooner had he recovered from the flu than he was stricken by a case of bronchitis that laid him low again. By June 1924 Gompers, who suffered from diabetes, could no longer walk without assistance, and he was hospitalized again, this time suffering from congestive heart failure and uremia.
Death and legacy
Gompers was a leading Freemason, reaching the 32º in the Scottish Rite Valley of Washington in 1906. In 1920 he wrote, "In my Masonic life I have visited lodges in many lands, and I have learned that Freemasonry in many countries, particularly in Latin countries, is the principal means whereby freedom of conscience, of thought, and expression is preserved."
Gompers led the anti-Socialist faction inside the AFL, losing to them only once in 1894. He argued that socialists believed workers and unions could never co-exist with business interests and wanted to use the labor unions to advance their more radical political causes. By 1920 Gompers had largely marginalized Socialist influence to a few unions, notably coal miners and the needle trades.
Gompers and his AFL unions vigorously fought the IWW in the U.S. and in Latin America, as a disruptive dual union that tried harder to destroy capitalism than to help workers. He cooperated with widespread government arrests of union leaders for the IWW's militant opposition to the World War. He said, "the IWW's...are exactly what the Bolsheviki are in Russia, and we have seen what the IWW Bolsheviki in Russia have done for the working people." The IWW was practically defunct by 1920.
.offered assistance Nonetheless, when government abuses against the leaders of the WFM seemed too egregious, Gompers relented and  Gompers's trade union philosophy and his devotion to collective bargaining with business
Gompers's philosophy of labor unions centered on economic ends for workers, such as higher wages, shorter hours, and safe working conditions so that they could enjoy an "American" standard of living—a decent home, decent food and clothing, and money enough to educate their children. He thought economic organization was the most direct way to achieve these improvements, but he did encourage union members to participate in politics and to vote with their economic interests in mind.
 Although the AFL had once preached the inevitability of class conflict and the need to abolish '
. Labor Historian Melvyn Dubofsky has written, "By 1896 Gompers and the AFL were moving to make their peace with Capitalism and the American system. gradually adopted a more conservative approach to labor relations but  and the precepts of socialism, Gompers began his labor career familiar with, and sympathetic to,
During a severe period of national economic recession in the early 1890s, labor unrest was at its height. A volatile situation in Chicago in August 1893 caused the city’s then mayor, Carter Henry Harrison, to warn that the preponderance of the unemployed would lead to riots that would “shake the country” unless Congress interceded. In late August 1893, Gompers addressed 25,000 unemployed workers who had massed on the shore of Lake Michigan. As reported in the Chicago Tribune on August 31, Gompers inveighed against the controllers of capital and the titans of industry and finance. “Why should the wealth of the country be stored in banks and elevators while the idle workman wanders homeless about the streets and the idle loafers who hoard the gold only to spend it on riotous living are rolling about in fine carriages from which they look out on peaceful meetings and call them riots?”
During World War I Gompers was a strong supporter of the war effort. He was appointed by President Wilson to the Council of National Defense, where he chaired the Labor Advisory Board. He attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 as an official advisor on labor issues.
Gompers, like most labor leaders of his era, opposed unrestricted immigration from Europe because it lowered wages and opposed all immigration from Asia because it lowered wages and represented, in his judgement, an alien culture that could not be easily assimilated. He and the AFL strongly supported the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that banned the immigration of Chinese. The AFL was instrumental in passing immigration restriction laws from the 1890s to the 1920s, such as the 1921 Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924, and seeing that they were strictly enforced. At least one study concludes that the link between the AFL and the Democratic Party rested in large part on immigration issues, as the owners of large corporations wanted more immigration and thus supported the Republican Party. Other scholars have seriously questioned this conclusion, arguing it oversimplifies the politics and unity of labor leaders and the major parties. As one reviewer argued in The Journal of American History, major Republican leaders such as President William McKinley and Senator Mark Hanna made pro-labor statements, many unions supported their own independent labor parties, and unity within the AF of L was never as extensive as claimed.