'An injury to one is the concern of all'

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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Every Labor Day I dust off my framed copy of The Toiler.

The all-but-forgotten newspaper was published in Fulton by the Knights of Labor, an early union which I’ve often written about, especially on Labor Day.

The Knights of Labor Seal (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The Knights of Labor Seal (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Knights “tried to teach the American wage-earner that he was a wage-earner first and a bricklayer, carpenter, miner, shoemaker, after; that he was a wage-earner first and a Catholic, Protestant, Jew, white, black, Democrat, Republican, after,” historian Norman Ware wrote.

The Knights stressed that whatever else divided working people, work itself was what we all had in common. Work was, by far, the most important factor in our lives. Thus, it behooves workers to unite as members of the working class, the Knights urged.

Active in the late 19th-century, the Knights were among the pioneers in our labor movement. There were even Knights in western Kentucky, where I was born, reared and still live.

The paper and the Knights are long gone.

But the union’s basic principle still rings true: No matter what jobs we have, we are wage earners first. “An injury to one is the concern of all,” was the Knights’ famous motto.

I spent twenty-four years as a teacher. I was a newspaper reporter for almost 13 years before that.

My jobs made me a member of the working class just like a factory worker, construction worker, dock worker, miner, truck driver, carpenter, painter, plumber, electrician, firefighter, garbage collector, grocery clerk, secretary and every other worker. We all belong to the working class.

Read the rest at the KY AFL-CIO web site.

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