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1860s

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In a number of cities, unions in various trades joined together in citywide federations. The Nation Labor Union, (actually a federation- an organization of local unions) formed in 1866. The NLU eventually persuaded Congress to pass an eight hour day for Federal workers. Never very strong, it was a casualty of the sweeping economic depression of 1873.

Formed in 1869 by Uriah Stephens and expanded rapidly under the leadership of Terrance Powdery, the Knights of Labor captured the public imagination. The Knights were an all-embracing organization committed to a cooperative society. Membership was open to all workers, whether they be skilled or unskilled, black or white, male or female. The Knights achieved a membership of nearly 750,000 during the next few years, but the skilled and unskilled workers who had joined, for the purpose to improve their hours and wages conditions, found themselves fragmented by the rift between skilled and unskilled workers. Skilled workers tired of labor activity on the part of unskilled workers who were easily replaced. The Knights' membership declined after the Haymarket Square riots. In the riot members of the Knights of Labor where accused of throwing a bomb which killed police officers. The Knights, once an effective labor force, were not only fragmented, but faced with enormous negative publicity that eventually led to its disbandment.

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