The Samuel Gompers Papers, Volume 8
Progress and Reaction in the Age of Reform, 1909-13
With almost forty years' experience as a labor leader by 1909, Samuel Gompers had learned the value of practical achievements. Shorter hours, higher wages, safer and more sanitary workplaces, and a voice in establishing working conditions were the hallmarks of trade unionism in the Progressive Era, and these hard-won, incremental gains had significantly improved working-class lives. While these were not all he hoped to achieve, they represented, Gompers believed, essential victories in a bitter class struggle that was far from over. This installment of the multivolume documentary history of the nation's premier labor leader covers a period marked by industrial tragedies–-such as the 1909 Cherry Hill mine disaster and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire--and industrial violence, including the 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times building. These years were punctuated by hard-fought strikes and judicial proceedings directed against trade unionists, most notably the Danbury Hatters' and Buck's Stove cases and the prosecution of the McNamaras. For Gompers, these were demanding years that taxed his health and energy but ultimately strengthened his resolve as he became a crucial player in the AFL's efforts to establish collective bargaining as the basis of industrial democracy.
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