Early labor unions. Skilled workers, such as cigarmakers, iron molders, and hat finishers formed the first labor unions before the Civil War. Several of these craft unions (so named because they organized workers within specific craft industries) joined together to form the National Labor Union (NLU) in 1866. Although the organization advocated an eight-hour workday, it did not support strikes to achieve that goal. The NLU was also concerned with social reform, including equal rights for women, establishing worker cooperatives, and temperance. The union, along with organized labor in general, declined sharply in the wake of the depression of 1873 but not before influencing Congress to enact the eight-hour day for federal employees (1868). The Knights of Labor, organized in 1869, is considered to be the first industrial union, open to skilled and unskilled workers, women, and African-Americans. This inclusive policy contributed to its
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Haymarket Square Riot, National Labor Union, Unskilled workers, early labor unions, specific craft industries