Pure and Simple Unionism

views updated


PURE AND SIMPLE UNIONISM. The expression "pure and simple unionism" was coined by Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), in a speech at the 1890 AFL convention in Detroit in which he opposed the inclusion of political parties in trade union organizations. Gompers argued that "the trade unions pure and simple are the natural organizations of the wage workers to secure their present and practical improvement and to achieve their final emancipation." The phrase came to represent the AFL's rejection of political action and social reform in favor of pragmatic economic strategies servicing the immediate needs of its members, such as wages, hours of work, and procedures for handling grievances.


Gitelman, H. M. "Adolph Strasser and the Origins of Pure and Simple Unionism." Labor History 6, no. 1 (1965): 71–83.

Gompers, Samuel. Seventy Years of Life and Labor. Volume 1. New York: Dutton, 1925.

Greene, Julie. Pure and Simple Politics: The American Federation of Labor and Political Activism, 1881–1917. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.


See alsoAmerican Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations .

More From encyclopedia.com