|Terms to know :
Molly Maguires -(what role did ethnic politics play)- The Molly Maguires were members of a secret Irish organization. Many historians believe the "Mollies" were present in the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania in the United States from approximately the time of the American Civil War until a series of sensational arrests and trials in the years 1876−1878. Evidence that the Molly Maguires were responsible for coalfield crimes and kidnapping in the U.S. rests largely upon allegations of one powerful industrialist, and the testimony of one Pinkerton detective. Fellow prisoners also testified against the alleged Molly Maguires, but some believe these witnesses may have been coerced or bribed. There is little doubt that some Irish miners conspired to resist their exploitative conditions; however, the trusts seem to have focused almost exclusively upon the Molly Maguires for criminal prosecution. This may be a consequence of Irish miners acting as the core of militant union activism during a bitter strike provoked by a twenty percent wage reduction. Violence during the period was widespread, with Irish Catholic miners who reportedly made up the secret organization also falling victim.Some aspects of the investigations, trials, and executions are unseemly. Information passed from the Pinkerton detective, intended only for the detective agency and their client — the most powerful industrialist of the region — was apparently also provided to vigilantes who ambushed and murdered miners suspected of being Molly Maguires. The vigilantes did not spare the miners’ families. The industrialist standing to gain financially from the destruction of the striking union acted as prosecutor of some of the alleged Molly Maguires at their trials.Molly history is sometimes presented as the prosecution of an underground movement that was motivated by personal vendettas, and sometimes as a struggle between organized labor and powerful industrial forces. Whether membership in the Molly organization overlapped union membership to any appreciable extent remains open to conjecture. Much remains uncertain, for the Molly Maguires left virtually no evidence of their existence, and nearly everything that we know about them was written by biased contemporary observers
Knights of Labor -Many early efforts to organize workers in the United States saw their inception in Pennsylvania. As early as the 1790s, shoemakers in Philadelphia joined to maintain a price structure and resist cheaper competition. In the 1820s, a Mechanics Union was formed that attempted to unite the efforts of more than a single craft. The rise of industrial capitalism, with its widening of the gap between rich and poor, generated the union movement's transformation. One form of worker reaction occurred with the Molly Maguires of the western Pennsylvania anthracite coalfields; their modus operandi was intimidation and violence. In 1869, the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, which initially offered a more reasoned approach to solving labor problems, was established in Philadelphia. At its inception, the KOL comprised nine tailors whose leader was Uriah S. Stephens. The organization believed that its predecessors had failed by limiting membership; the Knights proposed to organize both skilled and unskilled workers in the same union and opened their doors to blacks and women. In its early years, the organization was highly secret since in many areas union members were summarily fired. The Knights developed ornate rituals, drawn from Freemasonry,* to govern their meetings. By the early 1880s, the group had emerged as a national force and had dropped its initial secrecy. They sought to include within their ranks everyone but doctors, bankers, lawyers, liquor producers and gamblers. The aims of the Knights of Labor included the following:
An eight-hour work day
Termination of child labor
Termination of the convict contract labor system (the concern was not for the prisoners; the Knights opposed competition from this cheap source of labor)
Establishment of cooperatives to replace the traditional wage system and help tame capitalism's excesses
Equal pay for equal work
Government ownership of telegraph facilities and the railroads
A public land policy designed to aid settlers and not speculators
A graduated income tax.
In its early years, the Knights opposed the use of strikes; however, new members and local leaders gradually radicalized the organization. By the mid-1880s, labor stoppages had become an effective tool. The KOL won important strikes on the Union Pacific in 1884 and the Wabash Railroad in 1885. However, failure in the Missouri Pacific strike in 1886 and the Haymarket Square Riot of the same year quickly eroded the Knights' influence—although no member was implicated in the latter event. In the public mind, the eight-hour work day and other demands by the KOL had become radical ideas; to many, the terms "unionism" and "anarchism" were synonymous. Labor leader Terence V. Powderly's organizing skills had brought the group's membership to more than 700,000 in the early 1880s, but by 1900 that number had dropped to approximately 100,000. Why did the Knights decline so precipitously? The Haymarket incident was certainly pivotal in that it transformed a skeptical public into vocal opponents of the group. Beyond that, however, the Knights suffered from mismanagement and internal divisions, especially the longstanding strife between the skilled and unskilled worker members. Finally, the rise of the American Federation of Labor offered an alternative that rejected radicalism and organized its members along craft lines
Recurrent theme in U.S Labor history (how what we know today helps us understand backwards)
Samuel Gompers - (January 27, 1850 – December 13, 1924) was an American labor union leader and a key figure in American labor history. Gompers founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and served as the AFL's president from 1886-1894 and from 1895 until his death in 1924. He promoted harmony among the different craft unions that comprised the AFL, trying to minimize jurisdictional battles. He promoted "thorough" organization and collective bargaining to secure shorter hours and higher wages, the first essential steps, he believed, to emancipating labor. He also encouraged the AFL to take political action to "elect their friends" and "defeat their enemies." During World War I, Gompers and the AFL worked with the government to avoid strikes and boost morale, while raising wage rates and expanding membership.
Bill Haywood- (February 4, 1869 – May 18, 1928), better known as Big Bill Haywood, was a prominent figure in the American labor movement. Haywood was a leader of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), a founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and a member of the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of America. During the first two decades of the 20th century, he was involved in several important labor battles, including the Colorado Labor Wars, the Lawrence textile strike, and other textile strikes in Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Haywood was an advocate of industrial unionism, a labor philosophy that favors organizing all workers in an industry under one union, regardless of the specific trade or skill level; this was in contrast to the craft unions that were prevalent at the time, such as the AFL. His belief that workers of all ethnicities should be united also clashed with many unions. His strong preference for direct action over political tactics alienated him from the Socialist Party, and contributed to his dismissal in 1912.
Never one to shy from violent conflicts, Haywood was frequently the target of prosecutors. His trial for the murder of Frank Steunenberg in 1907 (of which he was acquitted) drew national attention; in 1918, he was one of 101 IWW members convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. While out of prison during an appeal of his conviction, Haywood fled to Russia, where he spent the remaining years of his life
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn- (trying to work across racial and ethnic lines) Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was born in Concord, New Hampshire on 7th August, 1890. The family moved to New York in 1900 and Flynn was educated at the local public school. Converted by her parents to socialism, she was only 16 when she gave her first speech, What Socialism Will Do for Women, at the Harlem Socialist Club. As a result of her political activities, Flynn was expelled from high school.
In 1907 Flynn became a full-time organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Over the next few years she organised campaigns among garment workers in Pennsylvania, silk weavers in New Jersey, restaurant workers in New York, miners in Minnesota and textile workers in Massachusetts. During this period the writer, Theodore Dreiser, described her as "an East Side Joan of Arc.". Flynn was arrested ten times during this period but was never convicted of any criminal activity.
A founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Flynn was active in the campaign against the conviction of Sacco-Vanzetti. Flynn was particularly concerned with women's rights. She supported birth control and women's suffrage. Flynn also criticised the leadership of trade unions for being male dominated and not reflecting the needs of women.
In 1936 Flynn joined the Communist Party and wrote a feminist column for his journal, the Daily Worker. Two years later she was elected to the national committee.
During the Second World War she played an important role in the campaign for equal economic opportunity and pay for women and the establishment of day care centres for mothers working in industry. In 1942 Flynn ran for Congress at large in New York and received 50,000 votes.
In July 1948 12 leaders of the Communist Party were arrested and accused of advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence. Flynn launched a campaign for their release, but in June 1951 was arrested in the second wave of arrests and charged with violating the Alien Registration Act.
After a nine-month trial she was found guilty and served two years in the women's penitentiary at Alderson, West Virginia. She later wrote an account of her prison experiences in The Alderson Story: My Life as a Political Prisoner (1955).
After serving five years she was released and soon afterwards became national chairman of the Communist Party in 1961. She made several visits to the Soviet Union and died while there in September, 1964. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was given a state funeral in Red Square. In accordance with her wishes, Flynn's remains were flown to the U.S. for burial in Chicago's Waldheim Cemetery, near the graves of Eugene Dennis, Bill Haywood and the Haymarket Martyrs
Bread and roses strike -The slogan "Bread and Roses" originated in a poem of that name by James Oppenheim, published in The American Magazine in December 1911, which attributed it to "the women in the West." It is commonly associated with a textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts during January-March 1912, now often known as the "Bread and Roses strike".
Alexander Plamer – (The palmer raids) Alexander Mitchell Palmer was born on 4th May, 1872. Educated at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, he was admitted to the bar in 1893.
A supporter of the Democratic Party, Palmer served in the House of Representatives (1909-15) and worked closely with Woodrow Wilson in his successful presidential campaign in 1912.
In 1919 Wilson appointed Palmer as his attorney general. Palmer had previously been associated with the progressive wing of the party and had supported women's suffrage and trade union rights. However, once in power, Palmer's views on civil rights changed dramatically.
Worried by the revolution that had taken place in Russia, Palmer became convinced that Communist agents were planning to overthrow the American government. His view was reinforced by the discovery of thirty-eight bombs sent to leading politicians and the Italian anarchist who blew himself up outside Palmer's Washington home. Palmer recruited John Edgar Hoover as his special assistant and together they used the Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act (1918) to launch a campaign against radicals and left-wing organizations.
Palmer claimed that Communist agents from Russia were planning to overthrow the American government. On 7th November, 1919, the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution, over 10,000 suspected communists and anarchists were arrested. Palmer and Hoover found no evidence of a proposed revolution but large number of these suspects was held without trial for a long time. The vast majorities were eventually released but Emma Goldman and 247 other people were deported to Russia.
In January, 1920, another 6,000 were arrested and held without trial. These raids took place in several cities and became known as the Palmer Raids. A. Mitchell Palmer and John Edgar Hoover found no evidence of a proposed revolution but large number of these suspects, many of them members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), continued to be held without trial. When Palmer announced that the communist revolution was likely to take place on 1st May, mass panic took place. In New York, five elected Socialists were expelled from the legislature.
When the May revolution failed to materialize, attitudes towards Palmer began to change and he was criticized for disregarding people's basic civil liberties. Some of his opponents claimed that Palmer had devised this Red Scare to help him become the Democratic presidential candidate in 1920.
Palmer failed to win the nomination and although he helped Al Smith (1928) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932) in their campaigns, he was no longer an important force in the Democratic Party. Alexander Mitchell Palmer died on 11th May, 1936.
Red scare – Shortly after the end of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Red Scare took hold in the United States. A nationwide fear of communists, socialists, anarchists, and other dissidents suddenly grabbed the American psyche in 1919 following a series of anarchist bombings. The nation was gripped in fear. Innocent people were jailed for expressing their views, civil liberties were ignored, and many Americans feared that a Bolshevik-style revolution was at hand. Then, in the early 1920s, the fear seemed to dissipate just as quickly as it had begun, and the Red Scare was over. During World War I, a fervent patriotism was prevalent in the country, spurred by propagandist George Creel, chairman of the United States Committee on Public Information. While American boys were fighting the "Huns" abroad, many Americans fought them at home. Anyone who wasn't as patriotic as possible--conscientious objectors, draft dodgers, "slackers," German-Americans, immigrants, Communists--was suspect. It was out of this patriotism that the Red Scare took hold.
At the time the World War I Armistice was executed in 1918, approximately nine million people worked in war industries, while another four million were serving in the armed forces. Once the war was over, these people were left without jobs, and war industries were left without contracts. Economic difficulties and worker unrest increased. Two main Union/Socialist groups stood out at the time--the International Workers of the World (the I.W.W. or Wobblies) centered in the northwest portion of the country and led by "Big" Bill Haywood, and the Socialist party led by Eugene Debs. Both groups were well know objectors to WWI, and to the minds of many Americans therefore, unpatriotic. This led them open to attack. Any activity even loosely associated with them was suspicious. One of the first major strikes after the end of the war was the Seattle shipyard strike of 1919 which, erroneously, was attributed to the Wobblies. On January 21, 35,000 shipyard workers in Seattle struck. A general strike resulted when 60,000 workers in the Seattle area struck on February 6. Despite the absence of any violence or arrests, the strikers were immediately labeled as Reds who and charges that they were trying to incite revolution were leveled against them. Hysteria struck the city as department stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies were flooded by frightened customers trying to ensure that they would be able to survive a prolonged strike. The Seattle strike suddenly became national news, with newspaper headlines across the country telling of Seattle's impending doom and potential loss to the Reds and urging for the strike to be put down. Seattle mayor Ole Hansen, who had long hated the Wobblies and took the strike as a personal affront to him, took the offensive against the strikers. He guaranteed the city's safety by announcing that 1500 of the city's policemen and an equal number of federal troops were at his disposal to help break the strike and keep the peace. On February 10, realizing the strike could not succeed and could even damage the labor movement in Seattle, orders were given to end the strike. Mayor Hansen took credit for the termination of the strike, proclaimed a victory for Americanism, quit his job, and became a national expert and lecturer on anti-communism. Subsequent to the Seattle strike, all strikes during the next six months were demonized in the press as "crimes against society," conspiracies against the government," and "plots to establish communism." A bomb plot was then uncovered on April 28, and among its intended victims was Mayor Hansen, apparantly a target for his squashing of the strike. On May Day (May 1), 1919, rallies were held throughout the country and riots ensued in several cities, including Boston, New York, and Cleveland. On June 2, another multi-state bomb plot was uncovered, leading to more fear of unseen anarchists who could inflict destruction and death from afar. Since one cannot defend against an unknown enemy, the "known" enemies (those workers who chose to strike) became increasingly tempting targets for persecution. On September 9, the Boston police force went on strike. A panic that "Reds" were behind the strike took over Boston despite the lack of any radicalism on the part of the striking police officers. Although the city experienced primarily looting and vandalism (as well as some rioting), papers around the country ran inflammatory and polemical headlines. Stories told of massive riots, reigns of terror, and federal troops firing machine guns on a mob. On September 13, Police Commissioner Curtis announced that the striking policemen would not be allowed to return and that the city would hire a new police force, effectively ending the strike. Weeks later, a nation-wide steel strike occurred. On September 22, 275,000 steel workers walked off their jobs, and soon the strikers numbered 365,000. Three quarters of Pittsburgh's steel mills were shut down, and the strikers estimated that the strike was 90% effective. Riots, attributed only to the strikers with no newspapers laying any blame on police or political leaders, resulted in many places. In Gary, Indiana, for example, unrest was so prevalent that martial law was declared on October 5. The steel owners held fast, and in January of 1920, with less than a third of the strikers still out, the strike ended without the strikers gaining a single demand. As a result of the strikes and unrest, the strikers were branded as "Reds" and as being unpatriotic. Fear of strikes leading to a Communist revolution spread throughout the country. Hysteria took hold. "Red hunting" became the national obsession. Colleges were deemed to be hotbeds of Bolshevism, and professors were labeled as radicals. The hunt reached down to public secondary schools where many teachers were fired for current or prior membership in even the most mildly of leftist organizations. The American Legion was founded in St. Louis on May 8, 1919 "[t]o uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred per cent Americanism." By the fall, the Legion had 650,000 members, and over a million by year's end. While most of the Legion engaged in such relatively innocuous activities as distributing pamphlets, the patriotic and anti-communist fervor of the Legion led many to engage in vigilante justice meted out against Reds both real and suspected. The Legion's prevalence in the country and reputation for anti-communism was so great that the phrase "Leave the Reds to the Legion" became the "Wazzzzup" of the late teens. The government, too, was not immune to anti-communistic hysteria. The Justice Department, under Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, started the General Intelligence (or antiradical) Division of Bureau of Investigation on August 1, 1919 with J. Edgar Hoover as its head. Its mission to uncover Bolshevik conspiracies, and to find and incarcerate or deport conspirators. Eventually, the antiradical division compiled over 200,000 cards in a card-filing system that detailed radical organizations, individuals, and case histories across the country. These efforts resulted in the imprisonment or deportation of thousands of supposed radicals and leftists. These arrests were often made at the expense of civil liberties as arrests were often made without warrants and for spurious reasons. In Newark, for example, a man was arrested for looking like a radical. Even the most innocent statement against capitalism, the government, or the country could lead to arrest and incarceration. Moreover, arrestees were often denied counsel and contact with the outside world, beaten, and held in inhumane conditions. If the national press is any indicator of the predominant mood of the country, then the efforts of the Justice Department was overwhelmingly supported by the masses because the raids, deportations, and arrests were all championed on the front page of most every paper. All told, thousands of innocent people were jailed or deported, and many more were arrested or questioned. On January 2, 1920 alone over 4,000 alleged radicals were arrested in thirty-three cities. Legislatures also reflected the national sentiment against radicals. Numerous local and state legislatures passed some sort of ordinance against radicals and radical activity. Thirty-two states made it illegal to display the red flag of communism. The New York Legislature expelled five duly elected Socialist assemblymen from its ranks. While Congress was unable to enact a peacetime anti-sedition bill, approximately seventy such bills were introduced. The national mood, however, began to shift back to normal in the spring of 1920. In May twelve prominent attorneys (including Harvard professors Dean Pound, Zachariah Chaffee, and Felix Frankfurter, who later became a Supreme Court Justice and a proponent of Sacco and Vanzetti's innocence) issued a report detailing the Justice Department's violations of civil liberties. The New York Assembly's's decision to bar its Socialist members was met with disgust by national newspapers and leaders such as then-Senator Warren G. Harding, former Republican presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes and even Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer who felt it unfair to put Socialists and Communists in the same category. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes criticized proposed anti-sedition bills. Possibly because the proposed bills were viewed as censorship, most newspapers came out against the anti-sedition bills. Industry leaders, who were early proponents of anti-communism, began to realize that deporting immigrants (as many of the communists were alleged to be) drained a major source of labor, which would result in higher wages and decreased profits. Suddenly, political cartoons in newspapers that months earlier had been virulently opposed to Reds now featured over zealous Red-hunters as their objects of scorn and ridicule.
The Red Scare quickly ran its course and, by the summer of 1920, it was largely over. The nation turned its collective attention to more leisurely pursuits
Eugene debs – Eugene Victor Debs was born in Indiana in 1855. He found work as a railroad fireman in 1870 and eventually became active in the trade union movement. Debs worked as editor of the Locomotive Firemen's Magazine, before being elected national secretary of Brotherhood of Locomotive Fireman in 1880. Debs, a member of the Democratic Party, was elected to the Indiana Legislature in 1884.
In 1893 Debs was elected the first president of the American Railway Union (ARU). During the Pullman Strike in 1894, Debs was arrested and charged with contempt of court. Despite being defended by Clarence Darrow, he was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison.
Debs now became a socialist and believed that capitalism should be replaced by a new cooperative system. Although he advocated radical reform, Debs was opposed to the revolutionary violence supported by the Communist Party.
In 1897 Debs joined with Victor Berger and Ella Reeve Bloor to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Debs was the party's presidential candidate in 1900 but received only 97,000 votes. The following year some members of the SDP left the party and established the Socialist Party of America. In 1904 Debs was the new party's presidential candidate and got 400,000 votes. He was also the party's candidate in 1908 (420,793 votes), and 1912, when with his running-mate, Emil Seidel, he increased this to 897,011 votes.
Debs believed that the First World War had been caused by the imperialist competitive system. Between 1914 and 1917 Debs made several speeches explaining why he believed the United States should not join the war. After the USA declared war on the Central Powers in 1917, several Socialist Party members were arrested for violating the Espionage Act.
After making a speech in Canton, Ohio, on 16th June, 1918, criticizing the Espionage Act, Debs was arrested and sentenced to ten years in Atlanta Penitentiary. He was still in prison when as the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party, he received 919,799 votes in 1920. His program included proposals for improved labor conditions, housing and welfare legislation and an increase in the number of people who could vote in elections.
President Warren G. Harding pardoned Debs in December, 1921. Critical of the dictatorial policies of the Soviet Union, Debs refused to ally himself with the American Communist Party. Eugene Victor Debs died in 1926 and was replaced by Norman Thomas as leader of the Socialist Party.
ARU – The American Railway Union (ARU), was the largest union of its time, and one of the first industrial unions in the United States. It was founded on June 20, 1893, by railway workers gathered in Chicago, Illinois, and under the leadership of Eugene V. Debs (locomotive fireman and later Socialist Presidential candidate), the ARU, unlike the trade unions, incorporated a policy of unionizing all railway workers, regardless of craft or service. Within a year, the ARU had hundreds of affiliated local chapters and claimed 150,000 members, drawing much of its membership out of the craft unions.Beginning in August 1893, the Great Northern Railway cut wages repeatedly through March 1894. By April, the ARU voted to strike and shut the railroad down for 18 days, pressuring the railroad to restore the workers' wages. It was the ARU's first and only victory.Similarly, the Pullman Palace Car Company cut wages five times – 30 to 70 percent – between September and March. The Company was based in the town of Pullman, Illinois (since 1889 a part of the city of Chicago), named after its owner, millionaire George Pullman. The town of Pullman was his "utopia." He owned the land, homes and stores. Workers had to live in his homes and buy from his stores, thereby ensuring virtually all wages returned directly back into his pockets. Upon cutting wages, the workers suffered greatly from this setup as rent and product prices remained the same. The workers formed a committee to express their grievances resulting in three of its members being laid off, resulting in a full stop in production on May 11, 1894.In June, the ARU convened in Chicago to discuss the ongoing Pullman Strike. On June 21, the ARU voted to join in solidarity with the strikers and boycotted Pullman cars. ARU workers refused to handle trains with Pullman cars and the boycott became a great success, especially along the transcontinental lines going west of Chicago.In response, Pullman ordered Pullman cars be attached to U.S. mail cars creating a backup of the postal service and bringing in the Federal Government. Under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, which ruled it illegal for any business combination to restrain trade or commerce, an injunction was issued on July 2 enjoining the ARU leadership from "compelling or inducing by threats, intimidation, persuasion, force or violence, railway employees to refuse or fail to perform their duties." The next day President Cleveland ordered 20,000 federal troops to crush the strike and run the railways.By July 7, Debs and seven other ARU leaders were arrested and later tried and convicted for conspiracy to halt the free flow of mail. The strike was finally crushed while Debs spent six months in prison in Woodstock, Illinois. The ARU eventually dissolved and Pullman reopened with all union leaders sacked. During Debs' time in jail, he spent much of his time reading the literature works of Karl Marx.
The Pollmen strike - The Pullman Strike was a disturbing event in Illinois history. It occurred because of the way George Mortimer Pullman, founder and president of the Pullman Palace Car Company, treated his workers. Organized in 1867, the company manufactured sleeping cars and operated them under contract to the railroads. Pullman created Pullman City to house his employees. It was on a three-thousand-acre tract located south of Chicago in the area of 114th Street and Cottage Grove. His workers were required to live in Pullman City. They were also expected to accept cuts in pay and not criticize workloads. Pullman charged money for use of the library. Clergy had to pay rent to use the church. "He wasn't a man to let you pray for free," it was claimed in The Call, a socialist newspaper. In 1893, because of a depression, factory wages at the company fell about twenty-five percent, but the rents George Pullman charged did not decrease. If a Pullman worker went into debt, it was taken from his paycheck. On May 11,1894, three thousand Pullman workers went on a "wildcat" strike, that is, without authorization of their union. Many of the strikers belonged to the American Railroad Union (ARU) founded by Eugene V. Debs. Debs, who was from Indiana, had moved to Chicago where he became a railroad fireman. He became aware of the working conditions of his fellow laborers. He saw men working for low wages, some of whom were injured or killed because of unsafe equipment. He was determined to make things better. On June 26, 1894, some ARU members refused to allow any train with a Pullman car to move, except those with mail cars. Debs did not want federal troops to get involved, and he knew that if the U.S. mail was tampered with, the troops would be there immediately. The railroads had formed an organization called the General Managers Association. They announced that no one could tell them whom to hire, whom to fire, or how they should pay their workers. The twenty-four railroads that were part of the General Managers Association immediately tried to end the strike. They announced that any switchman who refused to move rail cars would be fired. Debs's union announced that if a switchman was fired because he refused to move Pullman cars all the union members would walk off the job. By June 29, fifty thousand men had quit their jobs. Crowds of people who supported the strike began stopping trains. Soon there was no movement on the rails west of Chicago. In some places, fights broke out. In order to break the strike, the railroads needed help from federal troops. Getting their assistance, however, was a difficult task. The railroads could only get help from federal troops if the President agreed. President Grover Cleveland said that he would only send the aid of government troops if a governor requested them. The governor of Illinois was John P. Altgeld. He did not want to request troops because he believed that workers should have the same rights as their bosses. These ideas made the General Managers Association uneasy. The railroad managers started flooding the newspapers with stories that made Debs's American Railroad Union seem like a violent and lawless gang and portrayed Eugene Debs as a radical. They claimed that unrest had always ended in violence and threatened that this strike would be the same. The railroads began sending people to work on railroads as strike breakers or scabs. Attorney General Richard Olney supported the General Managers Association because he believed that the railroads had the right to do things their way, and if the workers disagreed with the treatment they were receiving, they could quit. On June 29, 1894, Debs went to Blue Island and asked the railroad workers there if they would support the strike. The railroad workers there felt they were being discriminated against. Angry railroad workers in Blue Island began destroying the yards and burning anything that was flammable. Attorney General Olney requested President Cleveland to send federal troops into Chicago to break the strike. On July 2, 1894, Olney obtained an injunction from a federal court saying that the strike was illegal. When the strikers did not return to work the next day, President Cleveland sent federal troops into Chicago. This enraged strikers and rioters began stopping trains, smashing switches, and, again, setting fire to anything that would burn. On July 7, another mob stopped soldiers escorting a train through the downtown Chicago area. Many people were killed or wounded from bullets. On July 10, 1894, Debs and three other union leaders were arrested for interfering with U.S. mail. They were released within a few hours, but Debs realized that continuing the strike would be a lost cause because of the federal troops. Most railroad workers resumed their old jobs and received the same wages as before. Some workers were put on a blacklist, which meant that no railroad in the United States was allowed to hire them. On July 17, 1894, Debs was sent back to jail and served a term of six months in jail. The union he had created no longer existed when he got out of jail. The Pullman Strike was important because it was the first time a federal injunction had ever been used to break up a strike. George Pullman was no longer regarded as an enlightened employer who took care of his workers, but as a greedy and intolerant man. He was offended by his workers' ingratitude. Pullman worried that people would try to steal what was his from him. Shortly before he died in 1897, he requested that his grave be lined in concrete to keep looters from robbing him
Share with your friends: