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Samuel Gompers
1850 - 1924

First president of the American Federation of Labour, and its leader from 1888 to 1924

Doing for people what they can and ought to do for themselves is a dangerous experiment. In the last analysis the welfare of the workers depends upon their own private initiative.

... social insurance cannot remove or prevent poverty.

The continuing clamor for extension of state regulatory powers under the guise of reform and deliverance from evil can but lead into greater confusion and more hopeless entanglements.

The worst crime against working people is a company which fails to operate at a profit.

... regulation of industrial relations is not a policy to be entered upon lightly -- establishment of regulation for one type of relation necessitates regulating of another and then another, until finally all industrial life grows rigid with regulations.

... compulsory sickness insurance for workers is based upon the theory that they are unable to look after their own interests and the state must interpose its authority and wisdom and assume the relation of parent or guardian. There is something in the very suggestion of this relationship and this policy that is repugnant to free-born citizens.

When the government undertakes the payment of money to those who are unemployed, it places in the power of the government the lives and the work and the freedom of the workers. ... [State unemployment insurance programs] are not advocated for the good of the workers. They are advocated by persons who know nothing of the hopes and aspirations of labor which desires opportunities for work, not for compulsory unemployment insurance.