Chicago, Illinois, USA - 1894 - Pullman strike
The Pullman Strike was a nationwide railroad strike in the United States in the summer of 1894. It pitted the American Railway Union (ARU) against the Pullman Company, the main railroads, and the federal government of the United States under President Grover Cleveland. The strike and boycott shut down much of the nation's freight and passenger traffic west of Detroit, Michigan. The conflict began in Pullman, Chicago, on May 11 when nearly 4,000 factory employees of the Pullman Company began a wildcat strike in response to recent reductions in wages.
Most factory workers who built Pullman cars lived in the "company town" of Pullman on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. The industrialist George Pullman had designed it ostensibly as a model community. When his company laid off workers and lowered wages, it did not reduce rents, and the workers called for a strike.
Founded in 1893 by Eugene V. Debs, the ARU was an organization of unskilled railroad workers. Debs brought in ARU organizers to Pullman and signed up many of the disgruntled factory workers. When the Pullman Company refused recognition of the ARU or any negotiations, ARU called a strike against the factory, but it showed no sign of success. To win the strike, Debs decided to stop the movement of Pullman cars on railroads. The over-the-rail Pullman employees (such as conductors and porters) did not go on strike.
Debs and the ARU called a massive boycott against all trains that carried a Pullman car. It affected most rail lines west of Detroit and at its peak involved some 250,000 workers in 27 states. The Railroad brotherhoods and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) opposed the boycott, and the General Managers Association of the railroads coordinated the opposition. Thirty people were killed in response to riots and sabotage that caused $80 million in damages. The federal government obtained an injunction against the union, Debs, and the top leaders, ordering them to stop interfering with trains that carried mail cars. After the strikers refused, President Grover Cleveland ordered in the Army to stop the strikers from obstructing the trains. Violence broke out in many cities, and the strike collapsed. Defended by a team including Clarence Darrow, Debs was convicted of violating a court order and sentenced to prison; the ARU dissolved.
July 1, 1894
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