The Knights of Labor
The Knights of Labor formed in 1869 as a secret society. It stayed that way until 1881, and for the most part, took over the National Labor Union which died out in 1877 due to issues of racism. The KL was led by Terence V. Powderly. They gained rapid membership in the 1880s and 1890s as they won many strikes; thus, protecting their workers' rights. However, after a series of unsuccessful strikes, mismanagement, several disputes, and lack of finance, the Union fell in the late 1890s and became basically extinct in 1900.
- campaign for economic and social reform, including safety and health codes
- hope to include all workers into one big union
- keep peace within union (no warfare), hence why they were so accepting of all workers
- reasonable work day (8 hours), fair pay, child labor laws, equal pay for equal work, federal income taxes, etc.
Unlike the National Labor Union or the American Federation of Labor, the Knights of Labor were accepting of almost all workers. They were not racist, so they accepted blacks and treated them as equals to whites. They were also accepting of women and gave them an equal pay as men. Immigrants were accepted into the work force, as many saw them as a threat who would reduce wages. Basically every single worker, skilled or unskilled, was accepted into the Union, except bankers and lawyers.
At the start of the Union, they were opposed to strikes. With new leaders and members who radicalized the KL, labor stoppages became effective. Important strikes were won on the Union Pacific in '84 and Wabash Railroad in '85. Many resulted in their hopes for the 8 hour work day as well as other rights they fought for. However, the Haymarket Square Riot hit the KL hard, and led to a demise of the organization. The public saw the party as too radical with many demanding ideals. Also, with the spark of the American Federation of Labor, Americans had the alternative.