Labor Union Essay for unit 5

Choose TWO of the following organizations and explain their strategies for advancing the interests of workers. To what extent were these organizations successful in achieving their objectives? Confine your answer to the period from 1875 to 1925.
Knights of Labor, American Federation of Labor, Socialist Party of America, Industrial Workers of the World
I Intro

Knights of Labor
The Knights endorsed reforms, such as restrictions on child labor, equal pay between men and women, etc, and were somewhat against strikes, preferring boycotts. They advocated an 8-hour workday and were against convict-labor.
They called for equal pay for men and women
They started as a kind of secret society
Won several strikes, the biggest in 1885, against Gould’s Wabash Railroad, after which they began to decline. At their peak they numbered 750,000
attempts to strike in Chicago turn disastrous in the Haymarket affair, and the KoL are crushed because they are now associated with violent anarchists
a bomb goes off in the Haymarket affair and some anarchists were executed
The KoL fizzled out but they did cause the creation of some bureaus, the Foran Act which penalized contract labor, and an federal

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law providing for the arbitration of labor disputes. They also started the industrial union

AFL
formed in 1886 after the peak of the KoL
craft union for skilled laborers, only white skilled male workers were allowed to join, no women or immigrants
tried to distance themselves from the ideological radical “utopian” and political ideas of other unions; the AFL instead focused on pragmatic goals and economic gains rather than social or political reform. (eg. higher wages, shorter hours, better working conditions). They tried to avoid being associated with the anarchists
The AFL grew in membership until it surpassed the KoL but still only embraced about 15 percent of the nations workers.
The AFL had its greatest success in organizing skilled workers.

Socialist Party
Marxists in America (mainly German immigrants) formed the Socialist Labor party in 1877.
The party received little attention until De Leon became its leader in the 1890s.
The Party wanted to abolish the government, but De Leon wanted to do it peacefully by gaining elections.
Debs was more successful than De Leon and formed the Socialist party of America out of his own Social Democratic party and remnants of De Leon’s Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance
He received surprisingly substantial popular support during presidential election campaigns, but still far short of what was needed to carry an election.
by 1912 the party had peaked with 33 cities with socialist mayors, and many socialist newspapers and publications
The Party died out though over disputes about WWI and was split up by the communist party

IWW
Started by the Western Federation of Miners in Montana in 1893
the IWW opposed AFL’s policy of only skilled workers and embraced all workers. Debs and De Leon supported the movement and wanted to change it into a class struggle.
It was rooted in the West among the nomadic labor force
The IWW was more ideological and included the radical Wobblies who wanted ultimate destruction of the government and one big union in its place although they didn’t really have any idea how that union would govern
The IWW was split by dispute and ended up being mainly composed by Wobblies lead by Haywood
The Wobblies appealed to the migratory workers in the West and the ethnic groups in the East, but it was a fringe movement.
The IWW was more concerned about revolutionary ideas and so was not efficient in securing pragmatic gains in labor disputes and scorned labor agreements even when they participated in them.
They had few victories, their largest victory was in Massachusetts in 1912 where they gained wage raises, overtime pay, etc.
The IWW declined when a strike failed in New Jersey
The Wobblies were labeled anarchists and criminals and most of their leaders were jailed for militant opposition during WWI
The supporters of the IWW were so passionate, however, that even thought they fell apart, the idea of a classless society did not die

Too bad…
…that class was cancelled 🙁 :*(

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