The American Federation of Labor

The American Federation of Labor was founded by 26 craft unions on this date in 1886. Samuel Gompers, a Dutch-born Jew and head of the Cigar Makers’ International Union, was elected its president. The AFL was a breakaway movement, established by union activists who had grown disgruntled with the Knights of Labor (K of L), a […]

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Clara Lemlich Sparks an Uprising

Clara Lemlich made a spontaneous speech at Cooper Union on this date in 1909 that sparked the “Uprising of the 20,000,” an industry-wide strike of shirtwaist workers mobilized by the new International Ladies Garment Workers Union. “I want to say a few words!” shouted Lemlich, a 23-year-old garment worker, in Yiddish, following AFL leader Samuel Gompers’ […]

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October 15: The Clayton Anti-Trust Act

Samuel Gompers, the Jewish head of the American Federation of Labor, called it “the Magna Carta of the American worker” and “the greatest measure of humanitarian legislation in the world’s history,” yet the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, signed into law on this date in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson, was actually “watered down” and did not […]

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May 1: General Strike, 1886

Samuel Gompers, a Dutch Jewish cigarmaker newly elected as head of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (soon to become the American Federation of Labor), led a one-day general strike of more than 200,000 workers across the country to demand the eight-hour working day. The one-day strike sparked more and more strike actions […]

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November 24: The Cigar Makers Union

Samuel Gompers was elected president of the Cigar Makers’ International Union, Local 144, in New York on this date in 1875. The union had reorganized itself after two decades of struggle with a piecework system and the constant arrival of  immigrant laborers from Bohemia. During the economic crisis of 1877, a four-month lockout by the […]

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December 8: AFL Is Launched

On this day in 1886, the American Federation of Labor was created by 26 craft unions with Samuel Gompers (a Dutch-born Jew) as president. During his 37-year tenure, procedures for collective bargaining and labor-management contracts were established and trade unionism became an established feature of the American capitalist system. Gompers was a labor conservative who […]

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