Samuel Gompers & Sidney Hillman Medal designed by Karen Worth.
Samuel Gompers (1850-1924) & Sidney Hillman (1887-1946)
(1850-1924) was born in London on January 27, 1850, after his
parents had emigrated from Holland. He left school at the age
of 11 to become an apprenticeship to a cigarmaker, his father's
occupation. In 1863, his family moved to New York. Within a year,
young Samuel had joined Local 15 of the United Cigar Makers Union,
and he eventually rose to Second Vice President. was a founder
of the American Federation of Labor (AF of L), and served as its
president for every year but one during his lifetime. During World
War I, Gompers was appointed by President Wilson to the advisory
committee of the National Council of Defense, and following the
War he led the United States delegation to the International Labor
Sidney Hillman (1887-1946), a 20 year old former rabbinical student
from Lithuania, was among the 100,000 Eastern European Jews who
immigrated to America in 1907. Hillman became an apprentice cutter
in a Chicago garment factory, working long hours under brutal
conditions. In 1910, he helped settle a major strike, gaining
union recognition and agreement to settle future disputes by arbitration.
During the Depression, Sidney Hillman was named to the Labor Advisory
Board of the National Recovery Administration, and helped draft
the Fair Labor Standards Act. In 1937, Hillman was a founder and
first Vice President of the Congress of Industrial Organizations
(CIO). President Roosevelt declared that Hillman, more than any
other man, helped to win passage of the minimum-wage law of 1938.
The medal's reverse dramatically portrays the September 1915 strike
by 25,000 members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
Union President, Sidney Hillman declared that: "All we want is
to be recognized as human beings and not machines." Sixty percent
of the workers were young women, including Hillman's future wife
Bessie Abramowitz, who also became an important labor leader.
They worked up to 20 hours in a day for as little as $1.25.