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Lecture 5

Labour Studies - Lecture 5 Notes.docx

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Labour Studies
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David Goutor

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Rise and Fall of the Knights of Labour (Part One) Different Kind of Organization  Knights wanted to mobilize workers not just about things going on in the workplace  When they get going they bring in people from all sorts of different places  Attract people who are interested in different kinds of organizations  Started as secret protestant organization  Most famous: Masons  Started in 1869 in Philadelphia Rise and Fall  Terence Powderly o Becomes president in 1879 o Changed organization o Was Catholic so did not want to be secret anymore o Under his leadership they become very open to almost all workers of different backgrounds o Under his leadership things start to grow in US and Canada o By 1884 people were starting to pay attention to Knights of Labour o Great Southwestern Railway Strike: Knights of Labour win and get a better deal for their workers (1885)  Great Upheaval o Win in 1885 leads to many more members o Membership could have doubled but had to turn people away because couldn’t keep track of all people wanting to sign up o Interest does not last that long o Not that good at tracking members o In total there were about 3 millions people who joined Knights of Labour at some time  Collapse o Membership  Broad and Flexible o If you worked, were interested in representing you o Not as strict/rigid as trade unions o Trade unions did not welcome workers from different trades o Knights wanted to organize as broadly as they can o Flexible: whatever works they are okay with  Mixed Assemblies o Basic units of organizing o A lot of assemblies were trade assemblies (lots of workers in one trade would form an assembly) o Mixed assemblies were workers from different trades  Small Town Organizing o Worked for small towns because would not have enough workers in a single trade to make assembly for that trade o Could make assembly out of all workers in town o Knights were successful in small and large areas o Made them even bigger threat because were not limited to one place, spreading very quickly and opening opportunities Ideals and Values  Humanity and Work o Most fundamental that all workers had in common was shared sense of humanity o Wanted humanity to be expressed on the job o Work was not degrading, not dehumanizing o Most of time called this “Brotherhood”: no matter what your background was the Knights were interested in organizing you o Allowed African American and Aboriginal people to join o Were not worried if were unskilled or skilled worker  Cooperation o Wanted a more cooperative society than competitive society o Did not want imperialism  Preserving Morality o Knights were big on insisting economic issues were moral issues o Ex. When workers are getting laid off because companies are making large profits, is that moral? o Big issues: who gets large amounts of open land in the West  Family o Family values was a cause of the left o Want to preserve family o Family is always apart: father away working, kids in school, mother at home o Portrayed employers who split up families as immoral (ex. employers who sent fathers away) o Adamant that family unit was foundation of society Protection of Women  Breadwinner’s Wage o Protection of women meant protecting them from having to work o Breadwinners wage: wage efficient enough to provide for the whole family without anyone else having to work o Knights said men should be able to make a Breadwinner’s wage to keep women and girls from having to work o Said that industrial workplaces are rough, nasty places that women are too delicate to work in  Organizing Woman o First willing to recognize that women were working and wanted to organize o Women wanted to join the Knights (Knights let them) o Allowing women to be full members in an organization was unusual o Allowed women to hold executive positions Rise and Fall of the Knights of Labour (Part Two) Movement Culture  Movement culture was defining aspect of Knights  Wanted to encourage broader questioning of basic social values  Knight leaders did not just see themselves as union leaders  Also saw themselves as social leaders/public intellectuals Methods  Cooperation o Wanted to start workers cooperatives o Conditions would be better in workplaces o In some cases this worked (especially garment, carpentry, blacksmithing) o In a lot of cases it did not (ex. larger industries)  Education o Education was important because trying to raise awareness and change minds o Mea
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