How did American labor unions begin? In 881, the present-day labor movement began to take shape with the founding of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).For almost half a century, until his death in 1924,Samuel Gompers dominated this organization and gave the movement its characteristic pattern. Gompers’ strategy was simple: Because he believed that no movement opposed to capitalism would flourish on American soil, .~e insisted on business unionism. Under this principle, American unions were engaged primarily in improving the economic status of workers-the struggle for higher wages, shorter hours, more vacations, better working conditions, and improved fringe benefits. American unions were the opposite of the labor movements in many European countries; abroad, unions have sometimes dominated major political parties and waged a class struggle to alter the form of government or to promote socialism.

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