The Constitution of the Knights of Labor (1878)

The recent alarming development and aggression of aggregated wealth which, unless checked, will invariably lead to the pauperization and hopeless degradation of the toiling masses, render it imperative, if we desire to enjoy the blessings of life, that a check should be placed upon its power and upon unjust accumulation, and a system adopted which will secure to the laborer the fruits of his toil; and as this much-desired object can only be accomplished by the thorough unification of labor, and the united efforts of those who obey the divine injunction that “In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread,” we have formed the [Knights of Labor] with a view of securing the organization and direction, by cooperative effort, of the power of the industrial classes; and we submit to the world the objects sought to be accomplished by our organization, calling upon all who believe in securing “the greatest good to the greatest number” to aid and assist us:—

I. To bring within the folds of organization every department of productive industry, making knowledge a standpoint for action, and industrial and moral worth, not wealth, the true standard of individual and national greatness.

II. To secure to the toilers a proper share of the wealth that they create; more of the leisure that rightfully belongs to them; more societary advantages; more of the benefits, privileges, and emoluments of the world. . . .

IV. The establishment of cooperative institutions, productive and distributive.

V. The reserving of the public lands—the heritage of the people—for the actual settler; —not another acre for railroads or speculators.

VI. The abrogation of all laws that do not bear equally upon capital and labor. . . .

X. The substitution of arbitration for strikes, whenever and wherever employers and employes [sic] are willing to meet on equitable grounds.

XI. The prohibition of employment of children in workshops, mines and factories before attaining their fourteenth year. . . .

XIII. To secure for both sexes equal pay for equal work.

XIV. The reduction of the hours of labor to eight per day. . . It is intended by the Knights of Labor to supersede the wage system by a system of industrial cooperation, productive and distributive.


From Major Problems in American History, pp. 72-3