Compare and contrast the Knights of Labor, AFL and Nation Labor Union in regard to their goals and leadership.Detailed answer plzzzz....

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The National Labor Union was the first organized labor movement in the U.S. It was led by one William Sylvis. The NLU's goal was to unite the various labor movements in the U.S. and create a national labor organization. The organization was largely responsible for the enactment of legislation creating the eight hour workday; however employers cut wages to compensate for the reduced hours, and worker's gains were minimal. Additionally, the NLU believed political activity was the key to reform, which did not appeal to many workers. It was unable to get its candidates elected, and most of its members deserted to join the Knights of Labor. 

The Knights of Labor were organized much like a fraternal lodge. They were known as the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor. They were not a true labor union, but rather sought to promote the culture of the working man. They were largely disorganized which prevented them from succeeding to any great extent. The Knights were founded by Uriah S. Stephens, but their primary leader was Terrence Powderly. Powderly attempted to convert the Knights into a true labor union rather than a fraternity. Because they were so loosely organized, their goals differed in different areas of the country. Their lack of organization caused a loss of interest and membership ultimately declined.

The American Federation of Labor was founded in 1886 by Samuel L. Gompers. It was quite successful and remains effective today. Gompers worked to bring disparate labor movements together and to work for immediate reform of local problems rather than long range goals. The AFL was largely successful as members of other unions under its umbrella would support striking workers by refusing to cooperate with the struck employer. A prime example is the picket line which no union person will cross, even if he/she is a member of another union.


mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The National Labor Union, the Knights of Labor, and the American Federation of Labor were labor unions that worked to help workers. The National Labor Union, led by William Sylvis, wanted to pass laws that would create an eight-hour workday. The union also wanted to increase pay and improve working conditions. Its membership consisted of skilled and unskilled workers as well as farmers. However, African American workers weren’t allowed to join the union. The National Labor Union also was active politically. For example, it supported ending prison labor and wanted land reform laws.

The Knights of Labor, started by Uriah Stephens, included skilled and unskilled workers. Women and African Americans were allowed to join the Knights of Labor. This union also wanted to improve working conditions and raise the pay of workers. It also was involved in political issues such as ending child labor and advocating for immigration reform. Unfortunately, the Knights of Labor were blamed for the violence associated with the Haymarket Riot. This led to a drop in membership in the union.

The American Federation of Labor, led by Samuel Gompers, wanted to help workers. Its membership included only skilled workers. The union wanted to focus on issues of importance to workers such as improving working conditions and raising the pay of workers. The American Federation of Labor stayed away from most political issues and instead focused on helping workers. This union worked hard to avoid being viewed as a group that supported reforms that were considered radical for that period of time.

There were similarities and differences between each of these labor unions.