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The Secularization of the Utah Labor Movement

The Secularization of the Utah Labor Movement


THE MORMON PIONEERS OF 1847 brought with them from Nauvoo, Illinois, not only a strong religious faith but also experience with the budding unionism of that day, a development with its roots in the trade union movement of England and the northeastern states. A number of craft guilds for tailors, smiths, boot and harness makers, coopers, wagon- makers, printers, and actors had been established in Nauvoo. The guild of Boot and Shoe Makers, founded in Nauvoo in 1843, was not well received by many of the residents who feared that it was organized to create a monopoly in shoemaking, forcing prices higher. The members replied in the Nauvoo Neighbor that they were attempting to bring the high prices down—so that footwear made in Nauvoo could compete with that from eastern facilities—through the establishment of a producers' cooperative with increased buying power in the purchase of raw materials. The boot and shoe makers were willing to barter and hoped to bring employment to 200 of their craft. Their dedication to unionism was shown by their quoting the Glasgow spinners that "the working man's only protection ... is Union...."

Union walls are high and grand Union walls, if nobly manned, Union walls are made to stand, Against the strongest foe.

The next year a spinners' consumers' cooperative was established. Joseph Smith commented that the cooperative was a good idea and would be a source of employment for mechanics and would provide consumer items at a low cost.


The urge to organize continued among the Mormons after they reached Utah. On February 20, 1852, a group of Latter-day Saints met at the home of musician and dramatist William Clayton, at the request of Brigham Young, to form an association to promote the theatre in Salt Lake City. Although the Deseret Dramatic Association may not have been intended to become a union and indeed may never have actually become such, it did lead the way, as the precursor of such union organizations as the Actor's Guild, Musicians Union, and Stage Employee's Union. The charter members included such prominent pioneers as William Pitt, William Clayton, Robert Campbell, Horace K. Whitney, and Orson Whitney.

The first known concerted action of the association, other than putting on dramatic productions, was their petitioning in 1852 for use of the Salt Lake Tabernacle for performances, the old bowery being considered inadequate. Although the request was turned down, Brigham Young did appoint an architect to draw up plans for the Social Hall, a much finer facility than the association had planned on.'

By 1864 the Social Hall had been replaced by the Salt Lake Theatre, and the inflation associated with the Civil War had begun to take its toll. Association members were in the unpaid employ of Brigham Young, the owner of the theatre; however, visiting performers were paid. On April 30, 1864, a meeting of the association was conducted by Brigham Young. Several members indicated financial problems and requested pay for their services or they would have to leave. Annie Adams Kiskadden, mother of famous frontier actress Maude Adams, later reported:

Brigham spoke and said we were only doing our share for the uplift of the community as were elders and missionareies . . . only our work, he said, was being done at home. We were asked to state our demand individually, but there was a deep silence. No one made demands on Brigham Young. . . . The chief agitators were silent. . . . Finally David Evans in the orchestra and a shoemaker by trade, pulled his crippled frame up on crutches and hit out straight from the shoulder. He said we were all forced to earn our daily bread outside the theatre and yet we were giving half our lives to it. He told Brigham that the theatre was making oodles of money and he could not see why the entertainers should not share in the profits.

. . . The intimation was plain. It was "no pay, no work." Brigham tried every means and every plan to settle the matter without putting the hometalent players on salary, but none of the plans suited the actors and grumbling grew louder with the final result that a salary list was drawn up. No one could say that the salaries were magnificently large, but it comforted us to know that we were worth something.

The association seems to have died between 1869 and 1874. If it lasted as long as 1874, it was probably a victim of the depression then in progress, as were many other unions and worker organizations throughout the territory and country. It may have also been a victim of Retrench- ment in 1869 or of the new economic experiment of Brigham Young, the United Order, beginning in 1874.

The first known permanent craft guild in Utah, and the first known guild to evolve into a full-fledged labor union was established at the latest by February 24, 1852, when Brigham Young opened the First Annual Printers Festival with prayer. That same year the National Typographical Union, America's first permanent national union, was formed. Apparently the printers' guild was the successor to a similar organization in Nauvoo. It was a unique craft guild, motivated at its outset more strongly by religious ideals than by economic goals. But considering the reform nature of much of the worker movement prior to and contemporary with that period, its religious orientation was not quite as strange as it might seem today. Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly the only guild in the world to open a meeting with the song "Come All Ye Sons of Zion" and to offer nonalcoholic toasts to, among others, the First Presidency.

On January 13, 1855, a more formalized Typographical Association of Deseret was organized. To join this group one had to be a member of the LDS church in good standing, and association members could be expelled for immoral conduct after an impartial trial and a two-thirds vote. Involved in the association were such prominent men as George Q. Cannon, later a member of the First Presidency of the Mormon church; William W. Phelps, well known Mormon printer and poet; Horace K. Whitney, prominent LDS musician; and Phineas H. Young, Brigham Young's brother and a church leader in his own right. Phineas Young became the first president of the association. Other LDS General Authorities who played key roles in or with the association over the next few years were Ezra T. Benson, Jedediah M. Grant, Erastus Snow, Albert Carrington, Orson Pratt, Amasa Lyman, and Wilford Woodruff. In 1856 the requirement of church membership was evidently dropped and the name changed to Deseret Typographical and Press Association. In 1868 the Deseret Typographical Association, Local 115, was chartered by the National Typographical Association. Henry McEwan was the president of the local; at least eight of the ten charter members were endowed Mormons.

The unique interests of workers other than typographers and theatre employees w^ere recognized rather early. At the Fourth of July parade of 1861 groups of workers participated by marching according to their trades. Fortunately for the labor historian, the event was recorded in some detail by the Deseret News. The parade had three interwoven and recurring themes: religious, patriotic, and economic. Emphasizing the economic were the marching workmen, organized by craft or trade, and led by a prominent member of the trade. Some of the workmen's banners proclaimed religious and patriotic messages, but the economic implications were strongest.

At least twenty of the trades represented in the parade had organized into unions across the nation by 1860, many of them in the decade of the 1850s. Most of the rest were to organize into unions within the next two decades. As already noted, a number of these crafts had formed associations in Nauvoo, indicating a substantial period of craft organization for some. Several trades carried banners in the 1861 parade that would seem even stronger evidence of formal organization approaching, if not yet achieving that of unions.

The printers or Typographical Association carried a banner "Printers of Deseret." Although this appellation is not conclusive of union organization, the fact that this group was led by a former Scotsman, Henry McEwan, who was to be a charter member and the first president of the Deseret Typographical Association, Local 115, indicates some movement in that direction.

The blacksmiths led by Jonathan Pugmire, formerly of Carlisle, England, marched under the banner "The Sons of Vulcan." The United Sons of Vulcan, a national union, was organized as a local in a Pittsburgh ironmill in 1858 and adopted a constitution and bylaws in 1861. A more general constitution was adopted in 1862. It would appear that Utah Territory may have been a leader, if transient, in the organization of this craft.

The tinsmiths and coppersmiths led by Dustin Amy carried a banner "True to the Constitution and Union." Whether the word "LJnion" referred to the union of states or to labor unions is not known, but the smith trades were among the earlier trade unions nationally, and among the earlier known unions of Utah.

The carpenters and joiners broadcast a typical union slogan: "Union is Strength." The inclusion of the two trades—carpenters and joiners— is indicative of at least a philosophical association with the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners, an English-based union formally established about 1860 but not coming to the LJnited States as far as is known for another decade. It is interesting to note that the leader of this group, Miles Romney, formerly of Dalton, England, had just returned from an LDS church mission to England. Just as capital, goods, and ideas, including the idea of cooperatives, were brought home by returning missionaries, it is possible that the idea of a union was likewise imported.

The coopers, led by Abel Lamb formerly of Rowe, Massachusetts, claimed that "United in These Bands We Stand." This trade had been Organized in the United States since the early 1800s.

The painters and glaziers, led by Edward Martin, formerly of Preston, England, had emblazoned "United Painters," a common terminology within the labor movement.

The boot and shoe makers, led by Edward Snelgrove formerly of Saint Mary's, England, had two banners indicating a strong group cohesiveness and possible union organization. One banner read "May the True Sons of St. Crispin ever feel an interest in the soles of all mankind." A local union, called the Knights of Saint Crispin, was organized in Milford, Massachusetts, in 1864, being credited as the first local of the national union, with the first lodge established in 1867 in Milwaukee. At least the idea, if not the actual organization, in Utah seems to antedate that of the rest of the country. The use of the adjective "True" may have been an attempt to differentiate Deseret's shoemakers from those elsewhere.

At least one of the craft leaders, Charles Lambert, the leader of the stonecutters and a Mormon convert from England, had had union experience in England, being a member of a Mechanics Institute and an Operative Society in his native land. He also had participated in at least one strike.

All of the above-named trade and craft leaders were LDS church members, and of the fifty listed trade leaders in this 1861 parade, at least forty-seven were members of the LDS church at the time. A substantial number of these were endowed members and others soon were. A maximum of three were not Mormon, but one of these soon joined the church. Of the fifty trades in the 1861 parade, only ten were represented again in the 1869 parade, although the Mechanics Union probably represented the building trades and others that were prominent in the 1861 parade. In addition to the mechanics, there were five other new crafts or trades represented in 1869.

One more guild-type organization with roots in the early guild movement of the 1860s was the Deseret School Teachers Association which marched at the end of the worker section of the parade. Following that activity nothing is known of this group until October 4, 1872, when the territorial teachers convention effected a "permanent organization" known as the Deseret Teachers Association. Evidently the earlier association had become defunct. Prominent at this meeting were Robert Lang Campbell, a clerk in the LDS Church Historian's Office and Utah's first superintendent of schools; the Dusenberrys who established the precursor to Brigham Young University and Karl G. Maeser, first president of that institution; and John R. Park, prominent in establishing the University of Utah. History is silent on this particular organization after a brief entry a few days later. The association, too, may have become a victim of the depression of the 1870s.


The 1850s and early 1860s saw general support of the budding union movement in Utah by Mormon authorities. Brigham Young had actively encouraged the organization of at least two guilds, the theatre workers and the printers. In 1855 he said:

The capitalists and mighty men of the earth should notify the Lord that he made a mistake when forming the balance of the human family, and petition that they be made with bones of iron, sinews, nerves, ligaments and muscles of steel, and flesh of brass. Then they could labor for them without food, rest, or shelter, and would not have to answer for not "multiplying and replenishing the earth;" neither w r ould the magnates then have to account for the terrible oppression they are meting out to their fellows, often depriving them of the enjoyment even of the pure air and light of heaven and of the pure water of earth, of the privilege of properly raising familes, of the necessary society of friends, of all or nearly all chances for mental improvement, crushing them down to constant physical work and toil, with little or no remuneration. For this cause we suggest to the corrupt wealthy of the world that they consider and practice upon the idea that their fellow beings are flesh and blood like themselves, that they have a right to a fair share of the bounties bestowed by a kind creator, and cease using human beings as though they were made of iron, steel, and brass.

But lest this suggestion should not be followed, it would certainly seem far better, than dragging out a miserable existence in bloated cities and districts where labor is abundant and element monopolized, for the poor to constantly plan a scheme to free themselves from the trammels which bind them, and go forth to the wide west where labor meets its reward, and element is free and abundant. And when they have escaped, and, instead of siding with the oppressor so soon as they are prospered, lend all the aid in their power to enable the down trodden to obtain the same vantage ground they have achieved.

Under strong church encouragement, worker organization in Deseret kept pace with the budding, locally oriented unionism of the rest of the country, perhaps originally being organized for fraternal purposes but with several groups evolving into unionlike organizations.

However, the Civil War years brought great economic pressure on the 'workmen of Zion as well as workers throughout the country. The "uprising" of the Deseret Dramatic Association in April 1864 was not the only inflation-induced difficulty. The Deseret News editorial of August 3, 1864, referring to the high prices of that year, implied that a strike was imminent. The upshot was a convention called by the LDS leadership to do something about prices. At this meeting worker representatives were allowed to express themselves, and out of it came a system of price regulation that apparently helped to calm the troubled waters. Probably more important in controlling wages was the collapse of prices nationally. On February 1 of the following year, the Deseret News reported that a sufficient supply of breadstuffs protected laborers and mechanics from injustices and that conditions of work were improving. The fact that workers were admonished again to refrain from strikes, however, would indicate that unionism or at least collective action was not dead.

In 1866 high wages were still a common complaint. It was felt that high wages made it difficult for Utah's production to compete with goods from other states and territories. This presumed inability to compete meant that the people would purchase goods from Gentile importers rather than Mormon craftsmen thus retarding the balanced, self-sufficient economic development of Mormondom. Deseret was still apparently far from being economically independent from the rest of the country.

On May 27, 1868, the Deseret News recognized the growing conflict between capital and labor, appealing for a Christian approach to its resolution :

Throughout the world there is a struggle for power and supremacy between capital and labor. Capital seeks to have labor helplessly in its power, tied hand and foot so to speak, and entirely subservient to its will. And labor, to find an equality, resorts to every means in its power to successfully combat capital. . . .

A result of this is class combinations. Capitalists unite together to make terms for the laborer. Workmen form societies and demand terms from the employer. . . .

. . . The gospel has to remove the cause of every existing wrong, to heal up the wounds of society, to introduce correct feeling, brotherly love. . . . We are looking for a day . . . when the Order of Enoch shall be established . . . for Capital must deal by labor, as it would wish to be done by . . . and labor must learn to act in the same manner.

This balanced approach to the labor question was not to last. The friction between the church and labor unions was to grow as Mormon workers joined with outsiders, as the church became more and more persecuted, as the church as an employer came face to face with union demands, and as closed shops (often excluding church members) became more and more prevalent. By 1869 there was so much concern that the newly organized School of the Prophets took action to induce the mechanics to agree to a lowering of their wages, and Brigham Young and other church leaders took an active interest in this movement.

The late 1860s and the 1870s marked a breaking point in the relationship between worker organizations and the Mormon church. There is no reason to believe that there was any strong antagonism to that point, at least not until the confrontations of 1864—66 over wages. In fact, the evidence would seem to indicate a compatability. Previous to the entry of railroaders and miners the population was homogeneous, practically all Mormon, and LDS leaders maintained considerable influence over the fledgling worker organizations. The Gentile "invasion" was yet to come, and there was still confidence that Utah was a sanctuary for Mormons, who largely came from the oppressed agricultural and industrial classes, engaged in building up Zion. The church leaders, expressing themselves through the Deseret News and in conferences, were certain that the church and its politico-economic institutions constituted the answer to the social and economic evils that had become a part of capitalism.

It would appear that in the early support of the various worker associations, Mormon leaders hoped they could be instruments of economic control by the church. They felt that there was no need to go outside of the church and its organization for any social, political, economic, or religious purpose. Zion was to be self-contained and free from the world. It may well have been the confrontations of 1864-66 that convinced President Young that his hope for economic influence over Zion through control of the craft guilds could not be maintained. On the other hand, the confrontations could well have convinced some craftsmen that they would need to exercise independence, at least in secular affairs, from ecclesiastical authority. Evidence of this independence may be seen in the national chartering of the Deseret Typographical Union, Local 115, in 1868.

With the organization of the printers local, that guild, at least, may be said to have been transformed into a full-fledged union. It also demonstrated the evolutionary character of many unions of the period. The business unionism of the later decades of the nineteenth century often found its roots in the local reform unionism and guilds of the first half of that century. However, as unionization proceeded, it was found necessary to become affiliated with national organizations. As markets expanded, workers came into competition with each other. Unrestricted competition drove wages down and often emasculated the crafts as they were broken up into components for greater efficiency. The functions could then be taken over, in large measure, by semiskilled workers or machinery. To protect their crafts and their perquisites, locals united into national unions. This the printers of Deseret accomplished in 1868.

For Zion's craft organizations this trend proved troublesome, for the religious motivation and influence characteristic of earlier years would now suffer as the local unions merged their interests with those of the national unions. The LDS church would affect the decisions and actions of the unions less and less, understandably creating some apprehension on the part of Mormon leaders who were somewhat protective of their positions of influence and whose vision was still one of a theocratic Zion. The new outside affiliations represented a breakdown of Zionic hopes. Separateness was to be the wave of the future, not only for Mormon workers but also for Mormon professional and business groups. The affiliation of the printers with the national union indicates that the religiously motivated and influenced printers guild was not adequately representing the interests of its members, at least in their view. It must be remembered that this affiliation took place before the intrusion of Gentile or non-Mormon unionism and was dominated, if not monopolized, by Latter-day Saints.

The break in the encouragement of worker organizations by the LDS church was not isolated but was part of a general Retrenchment by Brigham Young and other church leaders in 1868-69. With the coming of the railroads, they anticipated a substantial influx of non- Mormons. It was possible that non-Mormons might even become a dominant influence, bringing with them the ways of the world, an influence that could break down the cohesiveness of the Saints as well as the moral fiber of the community. This concern brought about a movement called Retrenchment, an attempt to reconvert the Saints and to isolate them—politically, socially, and economically—from the growing number of Gentiles in their midst. One means of implementing Retrenchment was the Mormon cooperative movement of which the Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution was the parent organization. Mormon businessmen were expected to deal only with Mormon businessmen and ZCMI. Strong social and economic sanctions were used to enforce a policy of not trading with the Gentile community. One reaction to this policy was the Godbeite heresy, which led to the disaffection and eventual excommunication of a number of Mormon businessmen, intellectuals, and some church leaders. Mormon unionists were caught in the middle.

The growing antagonism between the Mormon and non-Mormon communities is seen in an article in the Salt Lake Tribune of December 23, 1871, in which a non-Mormon criticized Mormons for being clannish. The article then recommended that Gentiles should do likewise, acting in concert. The writer further suggested that the mines would serve as a haven for Gentiles; they would be well received there. The Tribune also saw union activity as "an indication of the growing independence of workingmen and as evidence of the widening breach betwen the Church and State." The very fact that the now firmly established anti-Mormon Tribune was championing the labor movement as an instrument for driving a wedge between the people and the Mormon church in itself helped to make the church leadership and devout members skeptical of trade unionism. But, in addition, the publication of such a notion indicates that some breach between union and church may have already occurred.

Nevertheless, some union members were ambivalent, as may be seen in the case of Robert Gibson Sleater, a charter member of the Deseret Typographical Union, Local 115. In 1869 Sleater, in addition to his work as a typographer, was associated with George D. Watt, a church reporter and clerk to Brigham Young, in a commission merchant business in Salt Lake City. A victim of Retrenchment, the business was boycotted because of its dealings with the Gentile community. Watt became disaffected and eventually was excommunicated. Sleater remained loyal to the church and to Brigham Young despite this financial loss.

In 1871 Sleater, as president of Local 115, signed one of the first strike orders in Utah, forbidding union members from working in the Salt Lake Tribune office until further notice. The order, published in the Tribune November 7, was branded as unauthorized by some members of the local who published their own, larger notice. The newspaper made wry comments in its local news column on this split in the union ranks. Whatever the outcome of the strike, Sleater's standing as a union official was not impaired. In 1872 Local 115 sent him as a delegate to the national convention of the International Typographical Union where he was elected a national vice-president. The following year, with the blessing of Brigham Young, he went to Provo where with others he became the publisher and editor of Utah County's first newspaper. As such he followed, almost slavishly, the editorial policy of the Deseret News during the newspaper war with the Salt Lake Tribune and other anti- Mormon publications. He returned to Salt Lake following the death of Brigham Young in 1877, rising to prominence in the Utah labor movement, the International Typographical Union, and even the American Federation of Labor.


The winter of 1873 was a bad one economically—in the territory as well as the nation—initiating a depression that was to last until 1879. Unemployment was widespread with a resulting downward pressure on wages. Evidently, employers were, despite the unemployment, seeking even greater power to drive wages down by advertising for additional craftsmen to move into Salt Lake City. On March 24, 1874, two hundred workingmen assembled in Independence Hall in Salt Lake to protest a statement in the Salt Lake Herald, a Mormon-controlled newspaper, that "there is employment in this city for outside mechanics." The Herald statement seems to have emanated from a Mormon building contractor and self-styled capitalist, Nicholas Groesbeck. Apparently, he had attempted to put into practice the goal of the School of the Prophets to reduce wages by a third to a half, a policy strongly attacked by the apostate Godbeites associated with the Tribune. One man, S.H. Carlisle of the stonecutters, a somewhat rebellious ex-Mormon and a Godbeite, was vocal in condemning President Young's reported plan to reduce mechanics' wages to $1.50 and laborers' to 75 cents per day.

The chairman of the workers' meeting was James Stevens, a carpenter and a member of the LDS church, with Edward Tyson, a non- Mormon who represented the plasterers, as secretary. A resolution committee was named to express the sense of the meeting. The resolution that was adopted read in part:

. . . Resolved, That we, the workingmen of Salt Lake, in mass meeting assembled do most emphatically denounce the policy of inviting an outside laboring population into our midst to flood the labor market, as being inimical to their interest and our own.

Resolved, That it is the expressed sense of this meeting that the labor market has been overstocked for at least two years, and that at no time has the demand been equal to the supply.

Outside of the criticism of the reported wage-cutting policy of Brigham Young, the meeting demonstrated little animosity toward the church. Even though the meeting was dominated numerically by non- Mormons, some leaders and representatives were not antagonistic toward the church and did not want the meeting to get involved in an attack on it. At least one of these leaders, James Watson, became a bishop a few years later. The hope for a permanent city federation of unions soon died out, the apparent victim of depression and the apathy toward trade union activity usually associated with it.

A big change had come over the worker movement since the 1860s. The earlier movement had been dominated by Mormons, By contrast, the 1874 workers' protest meeting, although chaired by a Mormon, was noted for the paucity of church members. Of the twenty-one major participants known by name, only six or 28.6 percent were known to be Latterday Saints. This trend was not so marked in other cases. The Mormon domination of the typographers, for example, was no doubt diluted by the creation of the anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune whose employees had become members of the local; but in 1879 the local leadership was still dominated by Mormons. Of the seven officers that year, at least five were Mormons, a decline since 1868. The local president, Henry Mc­ Ewan, was a devout church member, and the local was still named Deseret.

There was little known union activity from 1874 to 1879. In a survey of the Tribune—the Salt Lake newspaper most likely to print labor news—for the years 1875 and 1876 no labor news items were found. In the 1876-79 period the only published labor news concerned union activity in the mining industry. The virtual collapse of the trade union movement in the 1874-79 period could have been predicted from a purely historical perspective. Certainly it is not surprising to contemporary students of labor history. During prosperity, unions flourished. The opposite was true during recession. With profits low, employers could not afford to give in to union demands, and they would just as soon lose some of their workers anyway. Consequently, unions had little success in improving worker benefits. In turn, the workers, seeing little value in union membership, tended to drop out. This scenario appears to have been generally valid for the 1875-79 period in Utah.

One response to the depression was the Mormon church's United Order movement, commencing in the spring of 1874. Patterned somewhat after an experimental effort in Brigham City, about two hundred Orders were established that year, most of them being general or undifferentiated communitywide organizations. Also associated with the United Order movement were the as yet relatively little known specialty United Orders, producing single or closely related products and composed of workers and management controlled through the church priesthood. The formation of these specialties and crafts was more often found in the urban wards in Ogden and Salt Lake City but also in such smaller towns as St. George and Logan. For example, United Orders for brickmakers and shoemakers were established in St. George in June 1874 and in the Salt Lake Twentieth Ward in October of that year. A tannery Order was established at Farmington September 26, 1874. On July 17, 1874, the United Order of Tailors of Salt Lake City was organized, and reportedly became one of the leading tailoring establishments in Salt Lake City.

The United Orders cut down the number of potential Mormon members of conventional unions and had the specific effect of drawing Mormons, both members and leaders, from whatever unions remained after the onset of the depression beginning in 1874. Thus, these unions largely came under the control of non-Mormons and/or the less devout members of the church. The movement was short-lived. By the death of Brigham Young in 1877 few United Orders remained, most of them evidently being the specialty type. By 1886 the remaining United Orders had either collapsed, been converted into conventional cooperatives, or had become strictly private enterprises.

The St. George Builders Union provides a good example of an occupational specialty associated with the United Orders. On June 6, 1877, members of the St. George United Order, under the direction of the stake presidency, organized the union "to promote our interests and those of the community." Wages were to be fixed or controlled by the union, similar to attempts of secular unions. The disposition of any surplus of union receipts was to be made as directed by the union and the priesthood, no member having any claim to them.

Similar to the Deseret Typographical Association in 1855, the builders had a closed union, only LDS church members being allowed to join. All union members were required to sign the articles of agreement and could be expelled by a two-thirds vote for "an act detrimental or prejudicial to the interests of the union." The presiding officer (superintendent) was assisted by foremen over each department of work. All were elected to office by the union membership and were to hold office as long as willing to serve or until rejected by a two-thirds vote.

Each member agreed to allow the union officers to negotiate all contracts for work and to be controlled by the officers in his labor. Meetings were held as called, except that one was scheduled for June 1 of each year for the purpose of sustaining the leaders. Any five members could require the superintendent to call a meeting. The work day was held at ten hours. Wages were to be credited for overtime—but evidently at no premium rates. Intoxicating beverages were not to be consumed on the job. Most of the leaders in this organization were men who had been

prominent in the construction of the St. George Tabernacle and Temple. Bishop Miles P. Romney, a son of Miles Romney, the general superintendent of construction for these church buildings and a leader of the Salt Lake Carpenters and Joiners in 1861, was elected the first superintendent of the union.


As already mentioned, one reason for the shift away from the Mormon-dominated guilds of the 1850s and 1860s was the coming of the railroads in 1869 that brought a great influx of non-Mormon railroad workmen into Utah from the unionized East. Even though Mormons played a major role in the construction of railroad trackage through Utah and its approaches, these were temporary jobs. Once the tracks were laid, the workers most likely returned to their homes and usual occupations, leaving non-Mormons to control the railroad unions.

Another factor influencing the changing labor scene in Utah was the mining industry. In addition to the activities of traditional, craftoriented unionism, a new form of labor organization, industrial unions, began to take shape in Utah in the 1870s. With the railroads, the economic feasibility of developing the rich ore bodies of Utah improved. Large numbers of non-Mormon miners entered the territory, diluting Mormon political and economic power, which up to that time was almost absolute. Associated industries boomed—especially construction and the processing of precious metals.

Working conditions in the mines were abominable, health and safety standards almost nonexistent. In addition, the pay was low and uncertain. The result was organizational activity among the miners. In 1871 miners in the Logan area attempted to organize. The effort was less than successful, due largely, it was said, to the antagonism between non-Mormons and the dominant Mormon community that looked with disfavor on typical mining town gambling, liquor, violence, and prostitution. The Salt Lake Tribune recorded that the miners were "determined to be governed by [laws] of their own making." This friction probably did not differ greatly from that found whenever settled, conservative, agriculturally oriented communities felt threatened by large numbers of outsiders coming in. In this instance, Mormons were dominant and probably sought to impose their standards of morality on a mining community characterized typically by relative lawlessness.

Not only did the miners organize, they were also engaged in disputes with their employers over the payment of wages. Workers were usually supposed to be paid once a month. However, if anything interfered with the company's income, it frequently refused to pay wages, saying that workers could not be paid if the company did not have the money. The result of miner agitation on this issue was the enactment in 1872 of a territorial miner's law that gave miners legal title to wages earned, whether company income was sufficient or not. This law did not necessarily guarantee payment. It only meant that workers could sue to recover wages earned but not paid. Few were in a position to do so.

The mining industry, except for coal mining, was dominated by non-Mormons and those who had drawn away from the church. This characteristic developed largely because of the opposition of Brigham Young to precious metal mining by the Mormons. The church leader feared that gold and silver fever would weaken devotion to the building up of the kingdom and that greater economic security would be found in the long-run development of agriculture and industry rather than short-run, highly speculative precious metal mining. Also, mining camps were notoriously immoral.

Somewhat contrary to much of the union activity in the Gentile mining communities was coal mining. In Pleasant Valley in the southeastern corner of Utah County in central Utah, the miners engaged in a strike in 1883, indicating some form of organization. A.O. Smoot, the LDS stake president of the area, visited the valley and induced the men to return to work. Several "hostile strikers" were arrested for "intimidat- ing their fellows." It is probable that most of the strikers were Mormons over whom Smoot ecclesiastically presided. Only this would account for his influence in settling the strike. As the feeling between Gentiles and Mormons was antagonistic at that time, it is doubtful that Smoot could have induced other than church members to return to work.


The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, organized nationally in 1869, was probably introduced in Utah in the early 1880s when local news of their activities began to appear. In 1883 the telegraphers and the tracklayers, whose unions were affiliated with the Knights, struck. Then in June 1884 coal miners at Grass Creek, near Coalville, organized Fidelity Assembly No. 3286 of the Knights of Labor and the following June celebrated their first anniversary. Of the thirty-six participants at least half were Mormon. Several months later, on August 18, 1885, the Knights, in a communication from Ogden signed by a Committee of Knights of Labor, opposed the importation of Chinese labor. Although the Deseret News was also opposed to the importation of Chinese labor, it decried the violence used by some of the Knights to exclude them. In 1886-87 the Knights formed a District Assembly, and by 1888 membership in this national federation of unions reportedly reached a peak of about eleven hundred in Utah.

It might seem, given certain similarities in the economic programs of the Knights and the LDS church—both encouraged cooperation, education, and arbitration, eschewing strikes—that they could harmonize their efforts. However, a number of factors interfered. First, although the Knights' national leaders opposed strikes and violence, they were not able to control local assemblies. The only power they had was moral suasion, and that was insufficient to control rebellious local groups. Violent mob action often ensued where the Knights were involved, something Mormon leaders feared.

A second factor was the church's general policy of avoiding involvement with Gentiles during the 1870s and 1880s. There was no reason to make an exception to this policy for the Knights. Third, both organizations had a high degree of secrecy connected with them. Church temple services were not open to the public nor were Knight meetings. The very existence of secrecy generated suspicion on both sides. Fourth, the Knights basically represented workers, whereas the church represented members as workers and as employers and was itself an employer, creating an obvious conflict. A fifth possible stumbling block may have been that Mormon leaders considered the producers' cooperatives of the Knights as counterfeits of the Lord's cooperative economic program, created to deceive the people. Sixth, the Knights opposed polygamy and statehood during the time the church was fighting against extinction at the hands of antipolygamy forces. This automatically placed the Knights in the camp of the enemy, at least in the minds of the Mormon leaders.

Early in 1886 the editors of the Deseret News advised the Saints not to become members of any secret society including the Knights. Later that year the Salt Lake City Knights, which retained vestiges of secrecy, retaliated by passing a resolution proposing to exclude polygamists from union membership. The Deseret News reacted: "There may be a few stragglers professing to be members of the Church who have identified themselves with the movement thus far, but doubtless they could almost be counted on the fingers. And even they are probably of doubtful faith and standing." This conclusion must have hurt devout church members within the Knights, but it was a conclusion that would gain in currency within the church and be extended to cover unions in general.

On September 11, 1886, a reply to the News editorial was made, signed anonymously by "Vindex" who averred that there were many church members associated with the Knights. He went on to enunciate the principles of the Knights, many of which the Deseret News supported in reply. In addition, "Vindex" informed the editors that forces within the Knights had been able to eliminate the anti-Mormon resolution, evidence of the probable numerical importance of active Mormons in that organization. It may also reflect the continued substantial role of Latter-day Saints in the typographical union and perhaps the influence of the polygamous R. G. Sleater.

The Mormon leaders undoubtedly remained skeptical of this outside organization with which some church members had become associated and over which church leaders had little direct influence. This skepticism was no doubt enhanced by the violence then accompanying mLich Knights' activity in Utah and the West, especially in Wyoming. One student of the Utah labor scene has concluded that

The Knights of Labor uprising in Utah planted the seeds of Church opposition to organized labor. It was the first known time that the Church came so close to forbidding its members from taking part in activities of labor organizations akin to "secret combinations" such as the Knights of Labor. The Church vehemently denounced all the radical methods to achieve goals of labor though at times it was verbally quite sympathetic to the cause of labor. ... As there was no place whatsoever for radical philosophies in the theological teaching of the Mormon Church, these labor organizations were naturally looked upon with caution. Afterwards, the Church always remained on guard whenever confronted by a labor question. . . . Out of this general environment of the late 1880s was born a conservative (union) leadership that dominated the (Utah) labor movement.


One of the best documented cases in the secularization of the union movement may be seen in the typographers. As already indicated, when Local 115 was chartered by the National Typographical Association in 1868, at least 80 percent of the charter members and officers were Latterday Saints. In 1879, of the eleven different officers and executive committee members, nine, or 81 percent were known church members. By 1885 the figures were four out of six (67 percent) ; in 1886, 33 percent and in 1887, 22 percent of the local union officers were known Latterday Saints. The known Local 115 presidents up to 1885 were Mormons— Henry McEwan, an active, devout church member frequently employed by the Deseret News, and Robert Gibson Sleater, also a member. In 1886 H. L. White, whose religious affiliation is unknown, became local president. In that same year, when the president and a majority of the officers were probably non-Mormon, the local's name was changed from Deseret Local 115 to Salt Lake Local 115.

Although the religious affiliation of the local's members has not yet been ascertained, most were probably non-Mormon. The local had registered a considerable increase in membership, growing from fourteen in 1880 to fifty in 1886. This increase could have taken place only from a heavy influx of typographers, mostly non-Mormon, from outside Utah. In 1886 alone, twenty-two union members were admitted to the local by card—that is, had transferred into the local.

This non-Mormon domination of Local 115 became even more evident in 1890 when the local leadership, supported by the International Typographical Union organizer, decided to take on the Deseret News, which had maintained an open shop policy. Until that time, that newspaper's employees were free to belong to the union or not, and local union members were free to work for the Deseret News, even though they might be working alongside nonunion men, a violation of the principles of the union. That year the union decided on a showdown, with the international organizer visiting both News and church officials. The union official reported to the ITU convention of that year that he had thought he had the support of church officials, but "the business manager threw obstacles in the way and . . . his influence arrayed the board of directors against any change. ..." The employees, who had reportedly favored affiliation, suddenly turned against the tmion, "remaining with the Deseret News claiming no benefit outside the Mormon Church would be commensurate with union membership. All of this doubtless inspired by the business manager." As a result, Local 115 declared that the News was "closed to union men and such union men as were at present employed be called out . . . (with) but one remaining in the office so called out. . . ." This confrontation was most significant as the typographers had previously been in a position to mediate differences between the church and the unions. The lines having been drawn, they were no longer in such a position.

By 1889 the unionization of Utah workers had developed to the extent that there were about twenty local unions in Salt Lake City, many of them associated with national unions. Fourteen of these unions representing twenty-four hundred men organized into a central body, the Federated Trades and Labor Council, under R. G. Sleater's leadership. Of the original sixteen officers, board, and executive committee members, at least seven were Mormons, What the exact relationship of these locals was to the Knights of Labor vis-a-vis the American Federation of Labor remains uncertain. From 1881 to 1886 the Knights of Labor and the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the national level had attempted to live side by side. The Knights, in theory, were organized as a single union composed of all trades; the federation consisted of autonomous nationals and internationals. By 1886 the leaders of both national organizations realized that they could not coexist. Dual association was impossible. Nationals and members had to make a choice. The year 1886 is usually dated as the zenith of the Knights, with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), created at the 1886 convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, henceforth gaining ascendency and becoming the dominant, overarching federation as the Knights sank into oblivion.

The use of the name Federated Trades and Labor Council in Utah indicates at least a philosophical alliance with the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, the predecessor of the AFL. However, Utah was not represented at that group's national conventions in the 1881-86 period. The desertion of the Utah trade unions from the Knights may well have been influenced by the conflict between the Knights and the Mormon church leadership. Active Latter-day Saints would have had a tendency to eschew the Knights in the face of church criticism, finding a more comfortable home with the Federated Trades.

In December 1889 Utah and Salt Lake City were represented by R. G. Sleater at the convention of the fledgling American Federation of Labor held in Boston. Utah was one of the earliest city or state-territory central federations to be so represented and was actually the only territory represented in the AFL. It appears that no other Utahns attended an AFL convention until 1896 when George A. Whitaker, a non-Mormon cigarmaker from Salt Lake, represented the Cigarmakers International Union. Although Sleater participated in the 1889 AFL convention as a representative of the Utah Federated Trades and Labor Council and was an organizer for the AFL in 1891-92, the first evidence of official association with the body as a constituent member was in 1893 when a charter was granted by Samuel Gompers, AFL president.

In 1890 Sleater attempted to create an alliance between Mormons and unionists in the formation of the Workingmen's party in the Salt Lake County elections of that year. The anti-Mormon Liberal party had achieved sufficient strength to seriously challenge domination of county offices by Mormons. To answer that challenge, the Mormon People's party, which had dominated the political scene, and the Workingmen's party, evidently created by Sleater for the occasion, collaborated in the formation of a common ticket. This action—to which neither the typographers nor the Utah Federated Trades had evidently been privy— produced strong union reaction, and Sleater became the object of vigorous verbal and written attack by fellow unionists.

The collaboration proved ineffective—perhaps even counterproductive. The Workingmen-People's party ticket was defeated and Sleater's leadership in the union movement seriously challenged, although he was to spring back in 1896 as the first president of the new Utah Federation of Labor which superseded the old council following the depression of 1893-95. The defeat of the Mormon-worker alliance constituted one more element in the secularization of the Utah labor movement. Direct Mormon influence was certainly on the wane.

One final piece of evidence of the secularization of the Utah labor movement is in the composite of Utah's known union leaders in 1890. Of the thirty different leaders of the Utah Federated Trades and local unions listed in the Salt Lake City Directory of that year, only twelve, or 40 percent, have thus far been identified as Mormons compared with 96 percent in 1861. However, the importance of LDS church members in the established union movement is seen in the fact that four of the six officers of the federation itself were Mormons.


The following factors were probably the most significant in the secularization of the Utah labor movement between 1852 and 1896:

1. The heavy influx of non-Mormon workmen associated with the mining and railroad industries as well as the construction unions and, eventually, the typographical union.

2. The radical, sometimes violent, activities of the Knights of Labor, railroaders, and miners.

3. The insistence upon closed shops by conservative unions.

4. The firm resistance of the Mormon church to closed shops when controlled by unions.

5. The anti-polygamy campaign of the late 1880s that polarized the Mormon and non-Mormon communities and with which the Knights became openly involved, albeit temporarily, against the church.

6. The organization of cooperatives and United Orders that drew off many Latter-day Saints from the budding union movement, depriving local unions of Mormon leadership and membership.

7. The strong public pronouncements of LDS leaders against unions and union activities that influenced some active church members to leave union activity.

8. The emasculation of the Mormon politico-economic system. The People's party was defeated in the Mormon capital and the United Orders either disappeared or were absorbed by private Mormon capitalists. Non-Mormon capital came to dominate the territory. Therefore, Mormon workmen, except the few working for church-owned business houses, were secularized. They were no longer working directly toward the building of the kingdom in their occupational pursuits, although they could work indirectly for such through contributions to the church. Even church-owned business houses accommodated themselves to the secularized business world, adjusting business practices to those of the Gentile community.

9. By the time the Utah economy had become secularized, the Mormon leadership had established a negative posture toward unionism, and devout Mormons who obeyed counsel were not as free to join the worker movement as they had been in the days of its infancy. Therefore, non- Mormons came to dominate.

10. Many relatively conservative Mormons were undoubtedly turned off by the rambunctious, intimidating posture of a union movement beginning to feel its oats. Strikes, demonstrations, picketing, demands, and sometimes even violence were foreign to most of the Mormons in the work force, many of whom had only recently come from quiet farming villages and espoused nonviolent Christianity.

11. The few Mormon union leaders who remained were in a most difficult situation. Unions were highly democratic, and union leaders had to respond to worker demands to stay in office. If the Mormon union leader responded to worker demands to the point of confrontation with businessmen who were church leaders or who were supported by the church hierarchy, they were considered as rebels against "constituted authority." On the other hand if they "obeyed counsel" against the perceived interests of the workers, they would lose all influence within the. union movement. Only the very strongest and most devout of men could stand up to the pressures of such a dilemma.

12. Once the local unions became associated in national union activities, their sovereignty became limited as their goals and practices merged with those of their union brothers throughout the country. Even in the absence of compulsion this merger of interests would take place as the new influence of unionists from outside the community became felt.

The process of secularization represents a breakdown in the singular control or influence of a religious body over an institution, such control or influence passing to a number of nonreligious forces. For secularization to take place requires the following: the introduction of pertinent nonreligious influences and controls of sufficient strength to be self-sustaining; the weakening or redirection of the influence of religious authorities over the institution through removal of the singular influence, dilution of the power of the singular influence, separation of the institution's members and leaders from the religious body, and/or the purposeful decision of the religious body to secularize the institution; the bifurcation of goals—the goals of the religious body moving in one direction and those of the associated institution moving in a different and incompatible direction.

These conditions for secularization existed in the relationship of the Utah labor movement to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the late 1800s. In the 1850s the singular power and influence of the church in Deseret had created a religiously oriented worker movement. With the 1860s a number of nonreligious forces began to make themselves felt. In the early years of that decade, war-induced inflation began to affect worker goals, as was true of the unemployment associated with the depression of the 1870s. With the coming of the railroads in 1869 and the opening up of the mining industry in the 1870s, non-Mormon workers were introduced into the community in great numbers bringing different cultural values, as was also true of many craftsmen who entered the area in support of the expanding economy in the 1870s and 1880s. As previously localized worker groups became associated with the national union movement, especially in the 1880s and thereafter, they came under first the influence and then the control of secular or nonreligiously oriented forces.

Church leaders hastened the secularization of the worker movement by the organization of the cooperatives, then the United Orders, and finally the Board of Trade movement of the 1869—86 period, attracting Mormon workers out of the unions and thus reducing the influence of devout Mormons on the budding union movement. The church policy of nonintercourse with the non-Mormon community in the 1870s, although strengthening some Saints, induced others to pursue a course in opposition to the church policy, hastening separation for them. The attacks against independent worker organizations by Mormon representatives beginning in the late 1880s aggravated the separation from the church of some union members. At the same time, the insistence of some unions on the use of violence and of others on the establishment of closed shops served to bifurcate goals.

The bifurcation of goals was completed with the political and business secularization of the 1890s. To achieve statehood, LDS church leaders agreed to political secularization. Church leaders may also have agreed to the secularization of the business life of the community. If so, such agreement only hastened what was already taking place with the demise of the major church economic programs and the ascendency of private capitalism, with the organizationally and economically superior corporation as its chief economic advantage. Mormon workmen were thus divested of the protection of a church economic program, losing their role as Zion's workmen building the kingdom. They became the employees of three kinds of secularized businesses: non-Mormon capitalists, Mormon capitalists, and church-owned businesses operating in competition with private capitalists, all of them receiving the sanction and blessing of church leaders. Although the workers had the goal of personal economic improvement, their employers had the goal of profits. Not necessarily incompatible, the two differing goals generally were in that period. Employers almost universally viewed increased economic benefits to workers as reducing their profits.

By statehood in 1896 all of the requirements for the secularization of Utah labor had been met. But labor was not alone. The religiously directed political and business life of the community had likewise been secularized, and the educational institutions were well on the way to secularization. Only the church itself and the social life it fostered through the intense church involvement of its membership remained religiously directed.

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