Ten Things To Know About: The Pullman Strike

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

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Ten Things To Know About: The Homestead Strike


Ten Things To Know About: The Homestead Strike 

1. The Homestead Plant was Andrew Carnegie’s steel plant located outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

2. In 1892, Carnegie traveled to Scotland leaving Henry Frick, in charge of Carnegie Steel. 

3. Frick, an enemy of organized labor, took advantage of Carnegie’s absence to break the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers – a union of about 800 workers in the plant. 

4. When the union protested a pay cut of 20 percent, Frick ordered a lockout, hired strikebreakers and set up a barbed wire fence around the Homestead plant. He also paid the Pinkerton National Detective Agency to supply him with 300 guards to use against the union. 

5. The union called a strike and armed workers fired on the Pinkertons who were arriving on a barge they had taken up the Monongahela River forcing them to retreat. 

6.  Frick and Carnegie convinced Pennsylvania’s governor to send in the Pennsylvania militia. 

7. In July 1893, 1000 new workers were escorted into the plant under military protection. 

8. The union leaders were indicted on chargers of murder (for the killing of several Pinkertons) riot, and conspiracy, however, no jury would convict them. 

9.  Henry Frick survived an attempted assassination attempt by the anarchist Alexander Berkman 

10.  The Homestead Strike was a defeat for organized labor.  The Homestead workers were forced to accept harsh new terms and the steel industry would not be organized for almost another half-century.  The strike demonstrated not only the power of management to break strikes during the Gilded Age, but the willingness of the state and federal governments to use force on behalf of big business.  

Source: Bailyn,Dallek, Davis, Donald, Thomas and Wood The Great Republic: Vol II, (Lexington, MA, DC Heath and Company) 1992. p 168-69

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