July 7 - Pullman Strikers Attacked

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The Rick Smith Show Logo  fiber_manual_record  Jul 8th, 2021


On this day in labor history, the year was 1894.

That was the day thousands of Pullman strikers confronted state militia forces at the Grand Trunk Railroad Crossing in Chicago.

The strike began May 11 after George Pullman slashed wages but refused to lower rents in his company town.

In late June, Eugene Debs and the American Railway Union called for a national boycott of all Pullman trains.

The boycott spread to 27 states, involving more than 150,000 workers.

Attorney General Richard Olney issued an injunction, declaring the strike illegal on July 2.

The injunction failed to break the strike.

But it did prevent union leaders from communicating with strikers.

The next day, President Cleveland ordered troops into Chicago rail yards to crush the strike.

Workers were furious.

They flooded the yards, stopping trains, smashing switches and barricading themselves with baggage cars.

Fighting continued for several days as angry strikers stormed rail yards and overturned empty freight cars.

Thousands of workers impacted by the Depression joined in, including those stranded in the city after the Columbian Exposition.

Two strikers were shot dead on the Illinois Central railroad July 6.

Workers responded by setting fire to hundreds of rail cars.

Now, on this day, the militia attempted to run a work train, to clear the rail yard at 49th and Loomis.

Thousands followed the train, showering it with bricks and stones.

The troops returned gunfire, killing at least four and injuring dozens.

Chicago unions soon voted in favor of a citywide sympathy strike, but the railroads quickly hired replacement labor.

Federal troops and state militia cleared the railways for business.

Main strike leaders were arrested.

By the beginning of August, Pullman rehired only those strikers who agreed never to join a union.

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