Samuel Gompers, by Leopold Gould Seyffert, 1919.
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Oil on canvas of Samuel Gompers.

Credit: Collection of The New-York Historical Society

Samuel Gompers led the AFL, the nation's largest and powerful union, from 1886 until his death in 1924. The AFL's focus on skilled crafts helped the American labor movement survive through decades of challenge. For decades, Gompers and the AFL struggled with little success to organize the large numbers of semi-skilled and unskilled workers in the nation's emerging steel industry.

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