The invisible hand that controls American Labor Unions: The KKK and KOL

Jan 12 '20 | By Ray

Today, operating mostly as an underground, yet still highly relevant and highly effective organization established to maintain white superiority, the 'Knights of the Ku Klux Klan’ (KKK), who were a spin off from the Freemasons after the American Civil is a terrorist group that still has its poisonous tentacles operating secretively in all areas of American government, law enforcement, education, media, and oh yeah, labor. 

In an effort to protect the rights of white working-class Americans from the threat of competition in the workforce from newly freed black American Slaves, who had been the driving force behind American development and economic growth for centuries, the Freemason society and its Klan members established the first labor unions in the United States to sabotage, victimize, and kill black men & women attempting to earn a living after the Civil War.

The most infamous of these unions was the ‘Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor’, later renamed ‘The Knights of Labor’ (KOL), which was the first national industrial union in the United States. Founded in Philadelphia in 1869 by Freemason Baptist Preacher Uriah Stephens, along with eight others, ‘The Knights of Labor’ was established as a platform on which to build white working-class unity. While Freemasonry tended to attract members of the economic elites, especially white merchants, retailers and investors, the ‘Knights of Labor’ membership encompassed all elements of the white working class.

Formed as a secretive organization, the self-proclaimed ‘Grand Master Workman’ Uriah Stephens insisted on a high level of secrecy and fraternalism in order to hide the hands that truly controlled this union. The ‘Knights of Labor’ was such a secretive organization that it was not referred to by name until 1879; ten years after it was founded. Stephens held deep convictions for the rule of secrecy. Stephens aspired to use this newly formed union to unite all white wage-earners into a single organization regardless of skill-sets.

Founded four years after the creation of the ‘Knights of the Ku Klux Klan’, Stephens also stressed the importance of solidarity within the ranks of the ‘Knights of Labor’ in order to facilitate white superiority over black American workers. He felt that the union should be a voluntary group of white men working cooperatively and fraternally to safe guard white worker’s interest.

Although the Knights of Labor did allow by some records 50,000 black workers to join its union after 1883, this exploit was largely used as a tool to degrade the black workforce. The KOL did nothing to address the perils that black workers faced.  By allowing only what they considered the very best black tradesmen and master level artisans to join the KOL this union was successful at controlling the black labor agenda for years to come. 

This KOL method of accepting small amounts of black workers, and separating black workers economically from other black workers performing the same trades, has proved very fruitful for today’s American labor unions. By harnessing some black worker support, the KOL was able to appear to the public as a moderately progressive organization, while spearheading white male dominance over the entire American workforce.

Black tradesmen that became members of the KOL were only allowed to meet separately from white KOL members, in segregated union halls, with white supervision, and had little if any vote on the organizations overall policies.

Black only KOL union members were relegated to work only in black communities, and amongst themselves. In fact, the modern construction industry today in the U.S. finds its historic roots tied to this legacy of castigating black tradesmen to the same effect when implementing so-called ‘Project Labor Agreements’ (PLA) and ‘Local Hire Programs’ primarily targeting black workers. The modern PLA is a direct spin-off from the Knights of Labor racist policies from over 100 year ago. 

Racial divisions within the Knights of Labor were primarily leveraged to prevent unity amongst black working class people and derail collective bargaining efforts, which would have resulted in true economic gains for the black working class.

By allowing select black worker to join its union, mostly masonic blacks, the KOL was able to render black workers ability to organize themselves within their own communities largely futile, because black labor leaders now had less skilled workers to pool from. This separation of black workers resulted in black KOL members ignoring their fellow un-unionized black counterpart’s grave plights of injustice and injuries, in exchange for better pay from their white masters.

It's been said that white supremacist always play both sides of an argument in order to draw victory by any means possible for the white race. While the KKK was the premier ultra-violent right-wing, the KOL was setup to serve as the quintessential blue collar left-wing of the white supremacists Masonic orders of Freemasonry. Both organizations used secret rituals borrowed from Freemasonry when meeting in private.

Whereas the KOL allowed some higher ranking black members from their segregated union halls to attend some of their union conventions and rallies, the Klan was overtly violent toward black workers union or not, only joining with KOL white Protestant workers in political movements that enacted reforms beneficial to the white working class only. Both of these organizations complimented one another by marginalizing recently emancipated black workers to a system that was equal to paid servitude.

Take for example the Thibodaux massacre of 1887 , which killed more than 50 black members of the Knights of Labor, following a three-week strike during the critical sugar harvest season by an estimated 10,000 workers, mostly black, against sugar cane plantations in Louisiana. The strike was the first conducted by the Knights of Labor, who strongly opposed strikes, due to their secret alliances with white elites.

Violence against the black KOL strikers broke out after local white democrat paramilitary Klansmen attacked the unsuspecting black workers and their families in Thibodaux, LA. Although the total number of casualties is unknown, as many as 300 were overall killed, wounded or missing, making it one of the most violent labor disputes in U.S. history. The victims, who were all black, included elders, women and children. 

The Opelousas Courier , a black owned newspaper described the scene:

'Six killed and five wounded' is what the daily papers here say, but from an eye witness to the whole transaction we learn that no less than thirty-five "...fully thirty negroes have sacrificed their lives in the riot on Wednesday..." Negroes were killed outright. Lame men and blind women shot; children and hoary-headed grandsires ruthlessly swept down! The Negroes offered no resistance; they could not, as the killing was unexpected. Those of them not killed took to the woods, a majority of them finding refuge in this city.'

During and even after the Thibodaux massacre the Knights of Labor did nothing to neither protect nor stop violence perpetuated by their democratic Klan brothers against their black union members. 

Albert Pike, who held the office of Chief Justice of the Ku Klux Klan while he was simultaneously Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction expressed his concept of Masonic brotherhood’s such as the Knights of Labor allowing black members to join:

"I took my obligation to White men, not to Negroes. When I have to accept Negroes as brothers or leave Masonry, I shall leave it."

Historically, the KOL presented itself as an organization committed to seeking major political reforms. Their leaders proposed reforms such as the eight-hour day, the end of child labor, equal pay for equal work, and a national income tax. But, KOL was completely ineffective at protecting or even promoting any initiatives or reforms that would directly benefit American black workers, who at the time were being lynched by the thousands. Black workers could not vote, attend public schools, travel freely, or benefit from the fruits of their labor in any meaningful way.  

The Knights of Labor felt that they had been ordained by god, and that their effort to unite the white working class was a holy endeavor. Stephens expressed his conviction that the "Everlasting Truth sealed by the Grand Architect of the Universe" (God) is that "everything of value, or merit, is the result of creative Industry."

By promoting the KOL as a holy cause, the union was successful at galvanizing white workers that feared they were losing power in the workplace as black workers began to compete for the same jobs. White KOL members were taught that they were the victims of ‘wage slavery’ and unfair ‘labor monopolies’ that consisted largely of black workers being manipulated by white elites.

Similar to today’s skilled trade unions, the ‘Knights of Labor’ fraternal symbolism of white superiority was integrated into every activity of its members and provided them with common patterns of behavior, and a code of conduct. Borrowing from their freemasonry origins the KOL created emblems, and badges that evoked behavioral and psychological responses from its members who looked at themselves as militant protectors of the white working man, and related to one another in the same manner in which the symbols derived, as devout white supremacists. 

In his doctoral dissertation, "Beyond the Veil: The Culture of the Knights of Labor"(UMass:1990) Robert Weir notes,

“By layering of symbol upon symbol, a psychic universe is created in which all parts relate to and define the whole.....Few fraternal orders created transcendental mental landscapes as well as the masons. This is precisely why the Knights of Labor drew so heavily upon Masonic ritual when articulating its own”.(pg. 18)

And, as the first local Master Workman, the first District Master Workman, and the first Grand Master Workman, the highest position in the organization, Stephen created the Knights of Labor’s emblem, an equilateral triangle within a circle, surrounded by a pentagon, and encompassed by an upside down five point star. Stephens embellished the emblem with symbols from the various white supremacists Freemason lodges to which he belonged.

The use of symbolism was very important to the KOL, it acted as a secret code language for it member to communicate their true intentions, while helped to hide from the public their connections to its fellow Klansmen.

The KOL felt that they had to have a public agenda and a private agenda, they strongly opposed labor strikes and boycotts, and they felt it was important to mask the fact that their unions leaders answered directly to the same monopolistic elites they were purportedly fighting. By effectively using symbolism, the KOL was able to rally its white racist base while also clamoring for support from wealthy white masonic elites.

One example of the Knights of labor’s ability to use symbolism as an effective means of organizing was how they would announce their unions meetings. The KOL would chalk symbols on sidewalks and buildings to call meetings, the symbol “8 = 415/1” meant Local Assembly (LA) No. 1 would meet on April 15, at 8 o’clock.

Although the Sugar Cane strikes of 1887 known as the Thibodaux Massacre, which killed and wounded more than 300 black KOL members was the first strike the union had conducted. In its early years, the Knights of Labor strictly opposed the use of strikes and boycotts against industrialists.

However, as the KOL grew, its new white members and local leaders gradually began to realize that they were being manipulated and used by their own union leaders as pawns; they began to radicalize the organization. By the mid-1880s, its member base began to organize labor stoppages.

The KOL white member base won important strikes to move the needle for white workers , such as on the Union Pacific in 1884, and the Wabash Railroad in 1885.

However, failures in the Missouri Pacific strike in 1886 and the Haymarket Square Riot of the same year that killed 7 police officers and 4 civilians after KOL members bombed the event, proved to be a fateful blow to the union . Although no KOL member was arrested for the bombing, in the public mind, demands by the KOL and their radically violent white caused the public to see the terms "unionism" and "anarchism" as synonymous of one another.

By the beginning of 1886, the Knights of Labor had over 1 million members across the United States, and Canada, and had chapters also in Great Britain and Australia.  Those successful strikes during the mid-1880s led to the Knights of Labor's growth. As the strikes proved successful, more workers flocked to the union movement.

But, due to the Knights of Labor's upper leaderships continued opposition to strikes, and the leaders allegiance to wealthy masonic elites and industrialist, the organization experienced declining membership by the late 1880s and the early 1900s.

And as lingering Klan sympathies among its union members became more prevalent, disgruntled KOL members began to establish and join other bigoted white supremacist labor unions, such as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC), established in 1881, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), established in 1886, the International brotherhood of Electrical workers, established in 1891, Laborers' International Union of North American (LIUNA), established in 1903, and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, also established in 1903, who refer to themselves as the ‘Knights of the Highway.’ 

As KOL members began migrating to newly founded labor unions that they felt better served their interest, such as the AFL-CIO that used KKK style violence, and intimidation against black workers, and as KOL union membership began to dwindle on paper, the Knights of Labor’s leadership and their Freemason puppet masters realized that it would be far more beneficial to realign itself with Klan values as well, as it became a part of what the Klan describes as the ‘invisible empire.’

Although the Knight of Labor was dissolved in 1949, we can still see the influence that secret societies like Freemasonry still have in today's labor union and labor movements. History tells us that as black workers we must stay alert to its secretive methods, and eliminate union leadership who promise much and deliver little.


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