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Knights of Labor, AFL, and IWW

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by

Emily Neal

on 23 September 2014

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Transcript of Knights of Labor, AFL, and IWW

The Knights of Labor was the first major American labor union. It was first formed in 1869 as a secret society of garment cutters in Philadelphia. The organization grew throughout the 1870s, and by the mid-1880s it had a membership of more than 700,000. The union organized strikes, and was able to secure negotiated settlements from hundreds of employers across the United States. The Haymarket Riot in Chicago on May 4, 1886 was blamed on the Knights of Labor, and the union was unfairly discredited in the eyes of the public. Membership of the Knights of Labor plummeted, and by the mid-1890s it had lost all its former influence and had less than 50,000 members. They were also known as the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor.

Industrial Workers of the World
Knights of Labor, AFL, and IWW
Knights of Labor
American Federation of Labor
A man named Samuel Gompers met with leaders of other craft unions in December 1886 to create the American Federation of Labor. The AFL was a mix of smaller crafting unions, so every member was a skilled worker. The organization could provide relief for workers who were involved in strikes. The AFL was the dominant national labor organization until the Great Depression when unskilled workers finally came together. Smart leadership, patience, and realistic goals made life better for the hundreds of thousands of working Americans it served. Instead of trying to reshape the fundamental institutions of American life, as some of the more radical union activists were trying to do, the AFL focused on securing for its members higher wages, better working conditions, and a shorter work week.


Terence Powderly, Grand Master Workman of the Knights of Labor
Founders of the KOL
The AFL building in Washington, D.C.
An IWW demonstration in 1914 in NYC
The black cat symbol, created by IWW member Ralph Chaplin, is often used to signify sabotage or wildcat strikes.
The End!
Full transcript