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Difference Between Knights of Labor and AFL

Knights of Labor vs AFL

Knights of Labor and AFL (American Federation of Labor) are different labor unions that were present in the United States.

The AFL was a formal federation of labor unions whereas the Knights of Labor was much more a secretive type. One of the main differences between the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor is that the former one was more radical.

The formation of Knights of Labour can be traced to the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, a secret union formed in 1869 by Uriah Smith Stephens and James L. Wright. Once Terence V. Powderly came to the leadership after Stephens, the organization got national recognition. This union became popular among the coal miners of Pennsylvania during the 1870’s economic depression. It was after this that the Knights of Labor established itself as a leading labor union. They had their greatest victory in the Union Pacific Railroad strike (1884) and the Wabash Railroad Strike (1885). The Knights of Labor had put forth many demands like legislation for ending convict labor and child labor.

Doctors, bankers, stockholders, Asians, Chinese, and lawyers were not included in the Knights of Labor as they were considered unproductive members in the society. Though the union flourished as a leading labor union, its membership declined because of mismanagement, autocratic structure, and unsuccessful strikes.

It was after the decline of the Knights of Labor that the American Federation of Labor gained popularity. The AFL was launched in Columbus, Ohio in 1886. Socialists like Peter J. McGuire and Gompers were behind the formation of the AFL. But in the later years, the union saw a policy shift towards conservative politics. The American Federation of Labor adopted the philosophy of “business unionism,” which emphasized the contribution to profit and national economic growth.

Summary:

1. One of the main differences between the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor is that the former one was more radical.
2. The AFL was a formal federation of labor unions whereas Knights of Labor was much more a secretive type.
3. The formation of Knights of Labor can be traced to the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, a secret union formed in 1869 by Uriah Smith Stephens and James L. Wright.
4. The AFL was launched in Columbus, Ohio in 1886. Socialists like Peter J. McGuire and Gompers were behind the formation of the AFL.


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