The Knights?!!!

Labor group in the 1880s

The Knights of Labor were the first group to try to organize workers, whether they were unskilled or skilled, female or male, and blacks or whites.  They would exclude the despised Asian immigrants on the West Coast though.  Its membership reached 800,000 in 1886 and millions of workers got involved in strikes, boycotts, political action, and social and education activities.  Labor reformers has many sorts of programs in mind, from the eight-hour day to public employment during hard times, currency reform, anarchism, socialism and the creation of a “cooperative commonwealth.”

Terrence V. Powderly was the head of the Knights of Labor and he launched assaults on the understanding of freedom that existed within Social Darwinism and liberty of contract.  Labor questioned whether freedom could exist during times of extreme economic inequality.  On July 4,1886, the Federated Trades of the Pacific Coast rewrote the Declaration of Independence.  Workers are no longer viewed oppressive to government but to “the unjust  domination of a special class.”   The Knights of Labor contributed to the tradition of labor protest songs in America.  It would however decline in 1949, but the Knights of Labor served as one of the most important labor organizations during the 1880s.

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