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What Happened In The Pullman Strike?

Referencing Styles : APA | Pages : 1

The Pullman Strike was a railroad strike which had taken place throughout the nation in the United States that lasted from the day of May 11 to July 20, in the year of 1894 and proved to be a turning point for the US labor law. It pitted the American Railway Union (ARU) against the Pullman Company, the main railroads and the federal government of the United States during the tenure of the president commonly referred to as the, Grover Cleveland. The strike and the boycott led to the shutting down of the nation’s freight and the passenger traffic west of Detroit, Michigan. The conflict was planted in Pullman, Chicago on May 11 when up to 4,000 of the factory employees belonging to the Pullman Company began with a huge strike as a reply to the recent reductions in their daily wages. An estimate of 30 workers were murdered by the railroad agents and their residing allies.

Among all the workers of the factories, most of them who had built the Pullman cars lived in the “company town” of Pullman on the Southern side of Chicago, Illinois. The industrialist named as, George Pullman had been the hand behind the designing of this model community. Pullman had the possession of a varied workforce. George wanted to hire the African- Americans for certain kinds of jobs within the company. Pullman utilized a large number of marketing strategies including advertisements and other campaigns to attract more workers to the company to have a greater and influential workforce.

When the company laid off the workers and lowered their wages, it did not reduce the rents and in turn the workers together as a group called in for strikes. Many of the reasons had led to the strike, some among them were the lack of democracy within the town of Pullman and the related politics, the rigid paternalistic control of the workers by the company, excessive rates of water and gas, and rejection of workers by the company to buy their own houses. Till then, there was no signs of formation of a union by them. However, in the year of 1893, an organization of the unskilled railroad workers were founded by Eugene V. Debs, naming it as ARU. Debs had brought in ARU into the factory and signed many of the workers who were unsatisfied at the same time. The time when the Company refused to have any sort of negotiations with the ARU, the organization called for the strike. The strike however had shown no signs of success. In order to have a winning strategy related to the strike, Debs decided upon the fact to stop the running of Pullman cars on the railroads. The over-the-rail Pullman employees did not opt to go and be a part of the strike.

Debs with his organization called for a great boycott against all the trains that carried a Pullman car along with itself. This boycott had its effect on the rail lines west of Detroit and at its peak had the involvement of nearly 250,000 workers from around 27 states to be approximate. The railroad brotherhoods and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) placed an opposition to the boycott, and the General Managers’ Association related to the railroads coordinated the opposition.

Approximately, 30 people were killed in the course of the riots and the sabotage had caused damage accounting up to $80 million.

The federal government obtained an injunction against the union, Debs, and other leaders who were playing a part in the boycott had ordered them to stop interfering with the trains that had carried the mail cars. After the refusal of the strikes, president Grover Cleveland ordered the Amy to stop the strikers from obstructing the running of trains. As a reason, violence had broken out in many of the cities resulting in the collapse of the strike. Defended by a team including names such as Clarence Darrow, Debs was convicted of going against an order placed by the court and was sentenced to stay in prison. This led to the dissolve of the ARU.

The strike had its effect on hundreds of towns and cities across the country. Works within the railroad section were segregated, for the old brotherhood which were established, included the skilled workers such as that of engineers, firemen and the conductors who did not support the labor action. ARU members did support the action, and often did fill in the organization with unskilled ground crews. In most of the areas, the people of the town and the businessmen generally had the support for the Pullman Company while on the other hand the farmers having an affiliation with the populists always had their support for the ARU.

In the region of California, the boycott had the most of its effect in Sacramento, a labor stronghold, but having a weaker section in the Bay area and the minimum amount in Los Angeles. The strike lingered as the strikers expressed longstanding grievances over the wage reductions and provide an indication of how unpopular the Southern Pacific Railroad was. The Strikers had engaged in mass violence and sabotage. The companies claimed it to be a Civil war while the ARU refused this and proclaimed that it was a crusade for the rights relying upon with the unskilled workers.  

However, the public opinion was mostly to provide an opposition to the strike and have a support towards the actions which Cleveland took. Also, the Republicans and the eastern Democrats supported Cleveland, but on the other hand, the Southern and the western Democrats as well as the populists generally denounced him. The mayor of Chicago, John Hopkins provided a huge support towards the strikers and tried stopping the Chicago police from intervening before the strike had taken the form of a more violent outcome.

The media coverage was extensive and generally negative with the coverage of the strike. A common group of reporters had tagged the boycotters to be foreigners who had gone against the patriotism and also as immigrants who were working in factori


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