Ten Things To Know About: The Pullman Strike
1. The Pullman company, which made railroad cars, had workers reside in a company town south of Chicago.
2. Rents and taxes in the company town were relatively high.
3. In 1894, in the depth of the depression of the early 1890’s, Pullman cut wages while simultaneously keeping rents high in the company town.
4. Pullman refused to listen to worker complaints and fired three delegates from a grievance committee of workers.
5. The Pullman workers struck and appealed for help from the American Railway Union headed by Eugene Debs.
6. Pullman turned to the General Managers Association, a group consisting of the chiefs of twenty-four railroad companies, and all workers who had participated in assisting the strike or striking themselves were ordered fired.
7. After the General Managers Association refused to negotiate, Debs ordered a boycott against all Pullman cars, including those carrying federal mail.
8. The federal courts issued an injunction against the American Railway Union to cease interfering with the mail. President Grover Cleveland sided with the railroad company owners and ordered federal troops to Chicago to break the strike.
9. 14,000 federal troops arrived in Chicago. Violence flared when a crowd of workers attacked the troops and the soldiers opened fire, killing several protestors.
10. The strike was broken by the end of the summer of 1894. Debs was convicted to six months in prison for ignoring the court injunction. As with the Homestead Strike of 1892, the federal and state governments had completely sided with management against labor and used force on behalf of private corporations to break a strike.
Source: Bailyn,Dallek, Davis, Donald, Thomas and Wood The Great Republic: Vol II, (Lexington, MA, DC Heath and Company) 1992. p 169-70