Menu

The Character of American Life and The Knights of Labor

0 Comment

The Knights of Labor were formed in Philadelphia in 1869 by a group of garment cutters. They were a deeply religious trade union, strongly opposed to the wage system, who formed as a backlash against other unions representing the aristocracy of labour. For the first time, men of all classes and all trades were brought together to improve a lot of every working man. Despite their dedication to the cause, the Knights of Labor were opposed to strikes and their leader, Terence Powderly, spent much of his time trying to stop or weaken them. Powderly’s biggest hope was that workers could return to their former position as independent producers through government support to end monopolies and the creation of cooperatives (Brecher, 1997, pp. 41-45). The Great Upheaval of 1877 was the first mass strike in American history. It was a spontaneous and unplanned strike among railway workers. It expressed their discontent over a wage cut and the complete reorganisation of work. The plight of the railway workers attracted much sympathy and consequently much support. The only thing able to quell it was the president’s federal guards. Many of the people who had come out to support the strike were not members of any trade union. In fact, the economic depression had created the demise of many trade unions. by 1877 only about nine were in existence, this had dropped from approximate thirty-three. The Knights of Labor believed that the Great Upheaval strike had failed because the workers lacked organisation, leadership, strategy, and goals.The Knights of Labor were formed in Philadelphia in 1869 by a group of garment cutters. They were a deeply religious trade union, strongly opposed to the wage system, who formed as a backlash against other unions representing the aristocracy of labour. For the first time, men of all classes and all trades were brought together to improve a lot of every working man. Despite their dedication to the cause, the Knights of Labor were opposed to strikes and their leader, Terence Powderly, spent much of his time trying to stop or weaken them. Powderly’s biggest hope was that workers could return to their former position as independent producers through government support to end monopolies and the creation of cooperatives (Brecher, 1997, pp. 41-45). The Great Upheaval of 1877 was the first mass strike in American history. It was a spontaneous and unplanned strike among railway workers. It expressed their discontent over a wage cut and the complete reorganisation of work. The plight of the railway workers attracted much sympathy and consequently much support. The only thing able to quell it was the president’s federal guards. Many of the people who had come out to support the strike were not members of any trade union. In fact, the economic depression had created the demise of many trade unions. by 1877 only about nine were in existence, this had dropped from approximate thirty-three. The Knights of Labor believed that the Great Upheaval strike had failed because the workers lacked organisation, leadership, strategy, and goals.