Samuel Gompers: American Federation Of Labor

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ompers “Although obviously a man of great personal pride and ambition, he had dedicated himself and all his abilities to service for his fellow workers. He wanted them to have what he valued most – individual liberty.” FLORENCE CALVERT THORNE (Forward, Samuel Gompers: American Statesman) “Since freedom was the goal, voluntarism was the principle he advocated. Democracy to him meant responsible individuals living in a responsible society. Individual rights were the practical results of that way of life. As president of the American Federation of Labor, Gompers could not compel any person or union to act contrary to his or their judgement. He depended on persuasion and education to build up a Federation held together by conviction and moral…show more content…
His singleness of purpose and undeviating philosophy gave force and meaning to his life and to the millions of Americans whose lives he has influenced. Today that influence is wearing thin among the men and women entrusted with carrying on Gompers’ mission. Instead of devotion to individual freedom, today’s union officials rely almost solely on compulsion, coercion, threats, violence and intimidation in order to maintain “labor’s structure.” In every sense of the word, they have become the “tyrants” Gompers warned of. The following quotations from his speeches and writings demonstrate clearly that most modern day union officials have forgotten – or indeed never accepted – Gompers’ basic belief in the principle of voluntarism as the cornerstone of the trade union movement in America. These quotations appear in the authoritative book Samuel Gompers: American Statesman, by Gompers’ long time confidential staff assistant Florence Calvert Thorne and in Seventy Years of Life and Labor, Gompers’…show more content…
You do not know that our movement is based upon the recognition of the sovereignty of the worker; that when they declare for a purpose, they’re presumed to mean what they say, and to act in accordance with it; that they require their executive officer, not to lead them, but to execute their will.” (From a letter to W. H. Milburn of the Denver Post, 1896) “There is no power vested in the officers of the Federation. They can act in an advisory capacity: they can suggest; they can recommend. But they can not command one man in all America to do anything. Under no circumstances can they say, ‘You must do so and so,’ or, ‘You must desist from doing so and so.’” (From American Federationist, December, 1913; abstract of testimony, House Lobby Investigation

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