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Knights of Labor and Haymarket

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by

Jarod Roll

on 23 February 2016

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Transcript of Knights of Labor and Haymarket

Knights of Labor and Haymarket

HIS 318
Dr. Roll
In the wake of 1877, labor organization and politics oriented around three groups:

1. Socialist Labor Party (old Workingmen's Party): Central Labor Unions in major cities
2. Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (1881)
3. Knights of Labor
Knights of Labor:
--founded 1869, tailors, Philadelphia
--took in other workers in the early 1870s
--coal miners in PA began joining in the mid-1870s, especially after the suppression of the Molly Maguires
--real growth outside of PA during and after 1877
Knights of Labor:
--secret society
--ritual initiation
--handshakes, passwords, codes, symbols ("knights")
--fraternal organization
No national officers or constitution until 1878
--Terence V. Powderly, a machinist from PA, chosen the Grand Master Workman (note how titles reflected artisanal tradition)
Knights:
--most Local Assemblies were "mixed": including workers of all kinds
--open to all regardless of skill
--only occupations excluded: bankers, lawyers, stockbrokers, liquor sellers, gamblers
Knights:
--flexible organization
--tendency for Local Assemblies to bend it to suit their local ideas, customs
Knights:
--constitution and by-laws, 1878
--combined work-related demands:
--8-hour day
--abolition of convict labor and child labor
--government bureaus of labor statistics
--equal pay for equal work between men and women
--government health and safety laws
--arbitration instead of strikes
Knights:
--also called for broader social reforms:
--reorientation of American society around interests of the "producers"
--"in the sweat of they brow shalt thou eat bread"
--cooperative institutions as an alternative to industrial capitalism
--end to wages, or "wage slavery"
--national banking reform
The Knights of Labor combined antebellum artisanal culture with contemporary issues
--opposed to strikes (considered too destructive for all sides) unless no other resort
This blending yielded a new drive for industrial unionism
--echoed demands of National Labor Union
--all workers, regardless of skill, could join
--women
--African Americans
Yet, flexible at the local level:
--California assemblies used Knights to campaign against Chinese
Knights abandoned secrecy in 1882:
--membership spiked: 40,000 in 1882 to 100,000 in 1884
Caught up in Great Upheaval of the mid-1880s:
--new wave of strikes, some organized by SLP Central Labor Unions, others by FOTLU, others by Local Assemblies of the Knights
--strike of Knights against Jay Gould's railroads in 1885, and apparent victory, raised membership from 159,000 to over 750,000 in 1886
Knights at the local level, as diverse as American workforce, ran far ahead of the national leadership:
--mixed with Central Labor Unions and craft unionists
--involved directly in politics in some places
--dynamic, feverish, but out of control

1886:
--Knights lost a second strike against Gould
--Knights and CLU backed Henry George for mayor of New York--almost won, out-polled Theodore Roosevelt
--Haymarket Bombing (May 4)
Full transcript