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A History of Trade Unionism in the United States

In 1878 it was forced to abolish secrecy


the success of the consumer's cooperative movement in European countries has been marvellous, even measured by bare figures. In all Europe in 1914, there were about 9,000,000 cooperators of whom one-third lived in Great Britain and not less than two and a half millions in Germany. In England and Scotland alone, the 1400 stores and two Wholesale Cooperative Societies controlled in 1914 about 420 million dollars of retail distributive trade and employed nearly 50,000 operatives in processes of production in their own workshops and factories.



With the practical disintegration of the organized labor movement in the seventies, two nuclei held together and showed promise of future growth. One was the "Noble Order of the Knights of Labor" and the other a small trade union movement grouped around the International Cigar Makers' Union.

The "Noble Order of the Knights of Labor," while it first became important in the labor movement after 1873, was founded in 1869 by Uriah Smith Stephens, a tailor who had been educated for the ministry, as a secret organization. Secrecy was adopted as a protection against persecutions by employers.

The principles of the Order were set forth by Stephens in the

secret ritual. "Open and public association having failed after a struggle of centuries to protect or advance the interest of labor, we have lawfully constituted this Assembly," and "in using this power of organized effort and cooperation, we but imitate the example of capital heretofore set in numberless instances;" for, "in all the multifarious branches of trade, capital has its combinations, and, whether intended or not, it crushes the manly hopes of labor and tramples poor humanity into the dust." However, "we mean no conflict with legitimate enterprise, no antagonism to necessary capital." The remedy consists first in work of education: "We mean to create a healthy public opinion on the subject of labor (the only creator of values or capital) and the justice of its receiving a full, just share of the values or capital it has created." The next remedy was legislation: "We shall, with all our strength, support laws made to harmonize the interests of labor and capital, for labor alone gives life and value to capital, and also those laws which tend to lighten the exhaustiveness of toil." Next in order were mutual benefits. "We shall use every lawful and honorable means to procure and retain employ for one another, coupled with a just and fair remuneration, and, should accident or misfortune befall one of our number, render such aid as lies within our power to give, without inquiring his country or his creed."

For nine years the Order remained a secret organization and showed but a slow growth. In 1878 it was forced to abolish secrecy. The public mind was rendered uneasy by the revolutionary uprising of workingmen of Paris who set up the famous "Commune of Paris" of 1871, by the destructive great railway strikes in this country in 1877 and, lastly, by a wave of criminal disorders in the anthracite coal mining region in Eastern Pennsylvania,[13] and became only too prone to attribute revolutionary and criminal intents to any labor organization that cloaked itself in secrecy. Simultaneously with coming out into the open, the Knights adopted a new program, called the Preamble of the Knights of Labor, in place of the vague Secret Ritual which hitherto served as the authoritative expression of aims.

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