L5: Workers, Labor, and Labor Unions in the Gilded Age Agenda Objective: To understand the main beliefs and ideas of the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor. To analyze what accounts for their different visions of how to best improve the working conditions of Gilded Age workers. Evaluate why the American Federation of Labor was ultimately more successful than the Knights of Labor and what was gained and lost for workers as a result. Schedule: 1. Whole Class Source Analysis and Discussion • Homework • Unit Work: • 1. Government and the Gilded Age Reading Packet Due L6 (G: Mon 2/3; Y: Tues 2/4) • Thesis Work: • Final Draft Due Friday 2/14 by 2:30 pm sharp! • See Reader for all required components!!
Workers During the Gilded Age • What do we know about workers during the Gilded Age?
What does this Cartoon Suggest about how Workers Felt About These Experiences?
Labor Unions Form • In response to these experiences and feelings, labor unions form. • What is a labor union? • What advantages does it confer to workers? • How might management feel about labor unions?
Labor Unions During the Gilded Age • Two Labor Unions dominated the Gilded Age: • The Knights of Labor • The American Federation of Labor • Each union sought to improve the living and working conditions of workers, however each had very different views on how to do so.
Goals for Today • Understand the main beliefs and ideas of the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor. • Analyze what accounts for their different visions of how to best improve the working conditions of Gilded Age workers. • Evaluate why the American Federation of Labor was ultimately more successful than the Knights of Labor and what was gained and lost for workers as a result.
The Knights of Labor • Founded in 1869 by a group of garment workers. • Sought to include all workers in one big union. • Skilled and unskilled, men and women, whites and blacks, were all allowed to join • Hundreds of thousands of workers in the 1880s were “baptized” in a Knights of Labor initiation ceremony that required the following promises.
“In the Beginning . . .” A Knight’s Sacred Oath In the beginning, God ordained that man should labor, not as a curse, but as a blessing; not as a punishment, but as means of development, physically, mentally, morally, and has set thereunto his seal of approval in the rich increase and reward. By labor is brought forward the kindly fruits of the earth in rich abundance for our sustenance and comfort; by labor (not exhaustive) is promoted health of the body and strength of mind, labor garners the priceless stores of wisdom and knowledge. To glorify God in its exercise, to defend it from degradation, to divest it of the evils to body, mind, and estate, which ignorance and greed have imposed; to rescue the toiler from the grasp of the selfish is a work worthy of the noblest and best of our race. You have been selected from among your associates for that exalted purpose. Are you willing to accept the responsibility, and, trusting in the support of pledged true Knights, labor, with what ability you possess, for the triumph of these principles among men?
The Knights of Labor • Consider the motto of the Knights of Labor (“that is the most perfect government in which injury to one is the concern of all”) and their oath. • What is the view of labor held by the Knights of Labor? • What is the view of the relationship between labor and industrial society? • How would the Knights of Labor argue that the working conditions during Industrialization dehumanize workers? • How does the philosophy of the Knights contrast with that of Andrew Carnegie?
The Knights of Labor • Membership in the Knights of Labor reached its peak around 1886 when the organization had about 700,000 members. • But their inclusion of skilled and unskilled workers was a handicap to the organization. Why might this be? • High-skilled workers soon began leaving the Knights of Labor and joining with a new exclusively skilled craft union – the American Federation of Labor.
The American Federation of Labor • The American Federation of Labor was founded in 1886 by Samuel Gompers as an alliance of craft unions comprised of mostly skilled workers. • Gompers became synonymous with the union, serving as its President every single year (except one) between 1886 and 1924. • American Federation of Labor consisted of an association of self-governing national unions, each of which kept its independence, with the AFL creating a unified overall strategy. • Unlike the Knights of Labor, the AFL was open to skilled, white men only. • By 1904 the AFL had a membership of 1.7nmillion and by World War One it had 2 million members • Merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1955 • Today is the largest federation of unions in the United States with more than 11 million members
What Did the AFL believe? Consider the following quotes from Gompers… • “[I]f you wish to improve the condition of the people, you must improve their habits and customs. The reduction of the hours of labor reaches the very root of society. It gives the workingman better conditions and better opportunities and makes of him what has been too long neglected -- a consumer instead of a mere producer. . . . A man who goes to his work before the dawn of day requires no clean shirt to go to work in, but is content to go in any old overall . . . but a man who goes to work at 8 o'clock in the morning wants a clean shirt; he is afraid his friends will see him, so he does not want to be dirty. He also requires a newspaper; while a man who goes to work early in the morning and stays late at night does not need a newspaper, for he has no time to read it, requiring all the time he has to recuperate his strength sufficiently to get ready for his next day's work.” • “The Trade Unions…regard the workman as the producer of the wealth of the world and demands that wages, shall be sufficient to enable him to support his family in a manner consistent with existing civilization and all that is required for maintaining and improving physical and mental health and the self respect of human beings.”
What did the AFL believe? • Consider the quotes by Gompers along with the motto of the AFL (“hard work conquers all”) • What is the view of labor held by the AFL? • What is the view of the relationship between labor and industrial society? • How does this contrast with the Knights of Labor?
Conclusion • Ultimately the AFL was far more successful than the Knights of Labor. While the Knights of Labor was largely defunct by the 1880s, the AFL is still around. • Why do you think this is? • What did workers gain and lose as a result of the success of the AFL? • What is the relationship between the Gilded Age and labor unions?