Vintage Audio - Labor's Service To Freedom

Samuel Gompers Click to download as MP3

Reproduced below is the speech recorded by prominent U.S. trade unionist Samuel Gompers in 1918 entitled Labor's Service to Freedom.

Although committed to trade union recognition and rights, and something of a pacifist by inclination, Gompers was an early supporter of President Woodrow Wilson's with the latter's decision to take the American people to war in April 1917.  Gompers was prominent in publicly arguing that the war against the Central Powers was a people's war, and therefore deserving of the widest support.

More privately Gompers foresaw great advantages to his union membership with the industrial boom that war would bring - and had already done so, with a sharp rise in munitions orders from the Allied powers in Europe.

Use the player above to listen to a recording of Gompers' speech from 1917.

Labor's Service to Freedom

The World War in which we are engaged in is on such a tremendous scale that we must readjust practically the whole nation's social and economic structure from a peace to a war basis.

It devolves upon liberty-loving citizens, and particularly the workers of this country, to see to it that the spirit and the methods of democracy are maintained within our own country while we are engaged in a war to establish them in international relations.

The fighting and the concrete issues of the war are so removed from our country that not all of our citizens have a full understanding of the principles of autocratic force which the Central Powers desire to substitute for the real principles of freedom.

In addition to the fundamental principles at issue, labor has a further interest in the war.  This war is a people's war - labor's war.  The final outcome will be determined in the factories, the mills, the shops, the mines, the farms, the industries, and the transportation agencies of the various countries.

That group of countries which can most successfully organize its agencies of production and transportation, and which can furnish the most adequate and effective agencies with which to conduct the war, will win.

The workers have a part in this war equal with the soldiers and sailors on the ships and in the trenches.  America's workers understand the gravity of the situation and the responsibility that devolves upon them.  They are loyal to the republic.  They have done and are doing their part.

There was struggle for freedom and for a better life - gives them a keen appreciation of the opportunities and privileges of free, the free government has given them.

They are demonstrating their appreciation and loyalty by war work, by loaning their savings, and by the supreme sacrifice.  Labor will do its part in every demand the war makes.  Our republic, the freedom of the world, progress, and civilization hang in the balance.  We dare not fail.  We will win.

A "Grand Slam" was British slang for an impending attack or battle.

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