On this day in 1866, the newly organized National Labor Union called on Congress to mandate an eight-hour workday. The coalition of skilled and unskilled workers, farmers and reformers pressured Congress to enact labor reforms. It dissolved in 1873 following an ill-advised venture into third-party politics in the 1872 presidential election.
Although the NLU failed to persuade Congress to shorten the workday, its efforts heightened public awareness of labor issues and increased public support for labor reform in the 1870s and 1880s.
The Knights of Labor, a powerful advocate for the eight-hour day in the 1870s and early 1880s, proved more effective. By 1886, the Knights counted 700,000 laborers, shopkeepers and farmers among its members. Under the leadership of Terrence V. Powderly, the union discouraged strikes and advocated restructuring society along cooperative lines…..