History of Organized Labor

Main

National Labor Union 1866 - 1873

1866 - 1873
  • Led by William H. Sylvis
  • First national union
  • Founded to ensure better working conditions, wages, and hours
  • Included women and African-Americans

Knights of Labor 1869 - 1890s

1869 - 1900
  • Led by Terrence V. Powderly
  • Involved any person, skilled or unskilled, including women and minorities
  • Desired an 8 hour work day, an end to child labor, graduated income tax, and equal pay for equal work
  • Membership declined sharply after the Haymarket Square Riot of 1886

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

1877
  • Rail companies cut wages by 10% during and economic depression
  • Began in West Virginia, then spread nationwide

American Federation of Labor (AFL) 1886 - 1955

1886 - 1955
  • Led by Samuel Gompers
  • Made up of skilled laborers
  • Focused more on on simple economic issues rather than social change
  • Were able to negotiate more with employers as they were not as easily replaced by "scabs"
  • Led many successful strikes, including the Pullman Strike of 1892
  • Merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1955 which is still currently active

Pullman Strike of 1884

1894
  • Conflict between the American Railway Union and railroad companies

International Workers of the World 1905 - Current

1905 - 2013
  • Led by "Big Bill" Haywood and later Eugene V. Debs
  • Often conflicted with other unions, who believed it to be too radical
  • "Wobblies"

Steel Strike of 1919

1919

AFL - CIO Merger 1955

1955 - 2013
  • American Federation of Labor merges with the Congress of Industrial Organizations