During the Progressive Era, factories and mills were very unsafe for employees. Unlike today, the government didn’t care about safety or monitoring how businesses treated workers. The typical industrial employee worked long hours between 12-16 hour/day for 6 days a week, under dangerous conditions and for little pay. Many of the employees were poor immigrants who needed to keep working despite the dangerous environment. By 1900, industrial accidents killed about 35,000 workers every year and injured another 500,000. If an employee spoke up or complained, they would be fired and replaced by someone else. Eventually, workers began to fight back and they created unions together, so that they could fight for safer working conditions, more reasonable hours, and more money. It was much easier for factory owners to replace one employee who complained, than to replace all of their employees if they were to go on strike together. One of the earliest and most powerful unions to form was the American Federation of Labor. It was founded by Samuel Gompers in 1886 and they went on strikes and used politics to fight for workers’ rights. Samuel Gompers was born on January 27th 1850, in London. His family was poor and his father was a cigar maker. At a very young age, Samuel joined his father in the cigar making business. When he was just 13, Samuel’s family immigrated from England to the United States and lived in New York City and continued their cigar production. When Gompers was just 14, he joined the Cigar Makers’ Local Union Number 15 with his father and by the time he was 16, he was a spokesman for the Union. When Samuel was 25, he was elected president of the CMLU, and served for three years, and then again from 1880-1886 when the American Federation of Labor was born. Gompers supported the democratic party, and strongly opposed Socialists, he felt that going on strike was the most effective way to help the workers. Under his leadership, the AFL became the largest and most influential labor federation in the world. The American Federation of Labor helped better the lives of workers by shortening work days, improving working conditions and giving higher wages.