Courtesy of The Kheel Center
A pivotal figure in the history of America's labor movement, Samuel Gompers was the first and longest-serving president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). A native of London, he immigrated in 1863 to New York, where he worked as a cigar maker and developed an abiding commitment to trade unionism and the fight for higher wages, shorter hours, and safer working conditions for union members, achieved through collective bargaining. Gompers rose through the union ranks and, in 1881, helped to found the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, later reorganized as the AFL. As president of the AFL from 1886 to 1894 and from 1895 until his death, he fought for economic and social justice for workers and transformed the organization into the largest and most influential body in the labor movement.