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June 24, 2010


This is a famous quote from a Samuel Gompers speech in 1890 in which Gompers explained what (according to him) the U.S. labor movement wanted. The "more!" line is about the only thing anyone remembers about Gompers by now:

GOMPERS: has been said that we will want more; that last year we got an advance of ten cents and now we want more. We do want more. You will find that a man generally wants more...We do want more, and when it becomes more, we shall still want more. And we shall never cease to demand more until we have received the results of our labor.

This is a from a new book by Nicholas von Hoffman about Saul Alinsky called Radical:

In describing [John] Lewis' relationship with Samuel Gompers, the founder of the American Federation of Labor, who with Lewis and Walter Reuther was one of the three most important figures in the history of American unionism, Saul wrote, "They became intimate friends. Gompers trusted Lewis implicitly, and it is reliably reported that whenever Gompers would go on a carouse he would trust Lewis to stand guard against any unfavorable repercussions." In Lewis-remembrance mood, Saul said that actually Gompers would post the large and very tough Lewis in front of Gompers' hotel room door so the older man could safely while away the night making merry with a string of hookers. Lewis told Saul that Gompers would have three women a night. Whether or not that impressed John L., it impressed Saul...

And...the...union...makes us strong!

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 24, 2010 08:14 PM

I think clicking through on that picture and reading the story there should be mandatory, btw.

Posted by: Bolo at June 24, 2010 09:15 PM

I wonder if Iggy was familiar with that speech.

Posted by: godoggo at June 25, 2010 12:48 AM

You highlighted a whole lot of "more" but didn't highlight "the results of our labor."

I've got problems with Gompers, but that quote definitely ain't one of them.

Workers should indeed demand more until they receive the results of their labor. That's a no-brainer to me and has nothing to do with what Gompers did w/ his relative privilege.

Posted by: Rojo at June 25, 2010 03:15 AM

Workers should indeed demand more until they receive the results of their labor. That's a no-brainer to me and has nothing to do with what Gompers did w/ his relative privilege.

Sure. I don't have problem with the quote either. I just thought it was funny, because essentially to the degree that he's remembered for anything now it's just the word "more." But no one thinks of it in terms of "more hookers."

However, I disagree that it has nothing to do with what he did with his relative privilege. It in fact does suggest one reason why those at the top of society fight so hard to keep what they have. Regarding him specifically, if Gompers had to decide between a socialist paradise for everyone in which he didn't have that privilege, and a hellhole for most in which he did, which would he have chosen? I don't know what the answer is, but it's a real question.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at June 25, 2010 08:33 AM

So, when are you starting your new career in cartooning, John, hmmmmmm?

Posted by: catherine at June 25, 2010 10:13 AM

Well, since Gompers was NOT a socialist, fought the IWW tooth and nail, supported the Spanish-American war, opposed Asian immigration into the US and accepted segregation because of the almost universally held racial views of his time (from his Autobiography--"the maintenance of the nation depended upon the maintenance of racial purity and strength"), and supported American entry into World War I, during which he chaired Labor Advisory Board to the Council of National Defense (while Debs went to prison opposing the war), I don't think we need to spend too much time wondering which he would have chosen.

My dear late mother as part of her job in the sales office of a meat packing plant sometimes had to make arrangements for visiting business executives from Chicago. Hookers were involved, but at least she didn't have to stand outside and watch the door. Gompers just wanted the same perks as management, and it sounds like he got them.

Posted by: N E at June 25, 2010 01:45 PM

Speaking of giving business to working girls, and without referencing Al Gore's $540 massage in Portland, OR, I recently commented on this issue at Jim Dreaver's blog. He was writing about how exciting it was for him to hear he's going to receive an insurance settlement and have enough money to go visit a friend in the Philippines, "and I will enjoy, I am sure, the many delights of being a single man, a Westerner, in an exotic Asian country."

I pointed out that there are adult entertainers everywhere, even in rural areas of America - as the ZZ Top song says "about that shack outside La Grange", "They got a lot of nice girls there."

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at June 25, 2010 01:52 PM

A gal's gotta eat too, ya know. Unions, while a good idea sometimes end up run by mobsters and other assorted crooks. THE RETIREMENT FUND is what usually attracts the flies and other forms of investors. I'm thinking a pimp union would have made it big getting in on the ground floor of the union movement.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 25, 2010 02:37 PM

P.S. Bolo is right, that story is priceless.

Posted by: N E at June 25, 2010 03:45 PM