What does that mean?
126 years ago yesterday, 11May, workers of the Pullman Company went out on strike…….
It was a general strike against the railroads and was squashed by Pres. Cleveland and the use of federal troops…..
The Pullman Company built and leased passenger train cars, thousands of which were in operation around the United States by 1893. George Pullman also built a planned community or company town for his workers in Illinois, where workers enjoyed many amenities but were also financially dependent on the Pullman Company for their homes and utilities.
After a severe depression in 1893, wages fell about 25 percent for the Pullman workers while living costs remained the same. The workers then sought out union representation. Former railroad worker Eugene V. Debs and his American Railway Union, which had won a strike earlier in 1894, became involved in the Pullman situation. The May 11 “wildcat” strike wasn’t directly organized by the ARU, but Debs and the union quickly became involved in the strike as it escalated.
The Pullman Strike of 1894 was a milestone in American labor history, as the widespread strike by railroad workers brought business to a standstill across large parts of the nation until the federal government took unprecedented action to end the strike. President Grover Cleveland ordered federal troops to crush the strike, and dozens were killed in violent clashes in the streets of Chicago, where the strike was centered.
Key Takeaways: The Pullman Strike
- Strike affected rail transportation nationwide, essentially bringing American business to a halt.
- Workers resented not only cut in wages, but management’s intrusiveness into their personal lives.
- The federal government became involved, with federal troops being sent to open railroads.
- Massive strike changed how Americans viewed relationship of workers, management, and the federal government.
This strike helped launch the political career of Eugene Debs…..an eventual presidential candidate that opposed Wilson in 1912….
Outspoken leader of the labor movement, Eugene Debs opposed Woodrow Wilson as the Socialist Party candidate in the 1912 Presidential Election. Later, he would continue to rally against President Wilson and his decision to take American into war — and be jailed for it under the Espionage Act.
Debs was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1855, the son of poor Alsatian immigrants. Though his parents encouraged an intellectual spirit, Debs left high school after one year to become a locomotive paint-scraper. There, among the rough-and-tumble of railway men, Debs found his calling. From his membership in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen to his role co-founding the Industrial Workers of the World (the “wobblies”), Debs raised his voice in defense of the common man
Labor has given the workers ALL the benefits they have used over the last century……and now is the time for labor unions to step up and be at the front of the struggle for the people of this country.
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”
Something that is not in the news much these days….a labor strike. Seems that the industry that may benefit most from Our Dear Leader’s tariffs is the steel industry and they may go on strike……
US Steel workers are fired up and ready to strike if a new contract isn’t reached soon, the Times of Northwest Indiana reports. Workers for the Pittsburgh-based company voted nationwide this week to approve a strike if talks involving health care costs, retiree benefits, and wage increases don’t work out—at a time when their employer is apparently rolling in money. “Angry USW members conducted strike authorization meetings at each US Steel local over the past week,” the United Steelworkers said in a statement to workers, adding that there was “an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote in every local. Many locals reported that their results were unanimous.” A three-year US Steel contract for roughly 16,000 USW workers ran out Saturday.
Don Furko, president of USW Local 1557 in Clairton, Pa., says workers are pushing back at a time when President Trump’s policies are benefitting US Steel: “Between the tariffs and the tax break for corporations, they stand to make $2 billion this year,” he tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. US Steel says it’s offering workers profit-sharing of at least $6,000, a signing bonus of $4,000, wage increases starting at 4%, a 15-cent hourly increase to 401(k) retirement plans, and a one-time $5,000 health-care bonus. But Farko says workers still have too many out-of-pocket health care costs for family coverage. The pro-strike vote surprised steel-industry sources, says the Post-Gazette. There hasn’t been a US Steel work stoppage since the company locked out workers for six months in 1986.
As an old labor activist it is good to see the workers taking control once again. No matter the outcome…..the workers are asserting themselves once again…..but the “Man” will make sure this goes nowhere.
Will the National Guard be called in to “break” any strike….
But the gauzy, halcyon portrait of the New Deal does not stand up to the reality of the Little Steel Strike of 1937 that is the subject of Ahmed White’s magisterial The Last Great Strike: Little Steel, the CIO, and the Struggle for Labor Rights in New Deal America that I discussed in a previous CounterPunch article focused on identity politics and the racism endured by Black steelworkers. For those new to the topic, “little” refers to the group of companies that blocked the CIO from organizing its workers, as opposed to US Steel, the “big” company that had they had come to terms with in March 1937. Little Steel consisted of Republic Steel Corporation, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company and Inland Steel Company. Despite being called “little” in comparison to US Steel, each ranked among the hundred largest firms in America
Would Our Dear Leader call out the Guard to break a strike?
It has come to light that the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler approved last month by the Bush administration with the support of the incoming Obama administration includes a stipulation that effectively bans strikes or work stoppages by autoworkers.
The clause, which was revealed in a Security and Exchange Commission filing by GM last week, coincides with government demands that the 139,000 workers at Detroit’s auto companies agree by February 17 to accept mass layoffs, plant closures and sweeping wage and benefit concessions.
According to the SEC filing, the Treasury Department could declare GM and Chrysler in default and revoke $17.4 billion in loans, throwing the automakers into bankruptcy, if “any labor union or collective bargaining unit shall engage in a strike or other work stoppage.”
The effect of this provision is to revoke the legal right to strike, an achievement won by the American working class in bitter struggles against “criminal conspiracy” laws used against striking workers in the 19th century. It was only with the 1935 passage, in the depths of the Great Depression, of the National Labor Relations Act that federal law recognized the right of workers to strike. This concession to the working class was not some freely given gift of the Roosevelt administration. It followed general strikes that erupted in 1934 in Toledo, Minneapolis and San Francisco. Without the strike weapon, workers are reduced to the status of industrial slaves, legally compelled to accept the most brutal conditions of exploitation without any recourse to collective resistance.
Several commentators have questioned the legality of the anti-strike provision in the auto bailout bill. Nevertheless, under the terms of the bailout, the strike ban remains in effect as long as the auto companies have outstanding loans from the government, setting the stage for contract negotiations in 2011 in which workers would not have the slightest leverage to reject demands for even more draconian givebacks.
And it begins! The Battle Of The Collars.
Do you remember the sit down strike at Republic Windows and Doors? The workers were being screwed out of their benefits and the plant was closing with 3 days warning of the closing. Then the workers decided that they would sit-in and demand their rights.
And to their surprise, their drastic action worked. Late Wednesday, two major banks agreed to lend the company enough money to give the workers what they asked for.
“In the environment of this economic crisis, we felt we were obligated to fight for our money,” Armando Robles, a maintenance worker and president of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represented the workers, said in Spanish.
The reverberations of the workers’ victory are likely to be felt for months as plants continue to close. Bob Bruno, director of the labor studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, predicted organized labor would be emboldened by the workers’ success. “If you combine some palpable street anger with organizational resources in a changing political mood,” he said, “you can begin to see more of these sort of riskier, militant adventures, and they’re more likely to succeed.”
Bank of America caved to advoid unwanted attention on their financial moves…they are doing their back street trading and getting lots of cash to do it…they wanted to avoid the press and its coverage…yes the workers won this one….but do not look for too many more wins…..the companies are thrilled that the Senate is helping them bust the unions.
Haymarket martyrs hanged, charged with the bombing death of eight police during a Chicago labor rally – 1887
IWW organizer Wesley Everest lynched after Centralia, Wash. IWW hall attacked – 1919
57 crewmen on three freighters die over a three-day period when their ships sink during a huge storm over Lake Michigan – 1940
Sit-down strike begins at Austin, Minn. Hormel plant – 1933
The ship Edmund Fitzgerald – the biggest carrier on the Great Lakes – and crew of 29 are lost in a storm on Lake Superior while carrying ore from Superior, Wisc. to Detroit. The cause of the sinking was never established – 1975
Tile, Marble, Terrazzo Finishers, Shop Workers & Granite Cutters International Union merges into United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners – 1988
Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt unveils the Civil Works Administration, a partner to the Civilian Conservation Corps, to create construction jobs, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges – 1933
Committee for Industrial Organization founded by eight unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. The eight want more focus on organizing mass production industry workers – 1935
20,000 workers, black and white, stage general strike in New Orleans, demanding union recognition and hour and wage gains – 1892
Some 1,300 building trades workers in eastern Massachusetts participated in a general strike on all military work in the area to protest the use of open-shop (a worksite in which union membership is not required as a condition of employment) builders. The strike persisted for a week in the face of threats from the U.S. War Department – 1917
President Eisenhower’s use of the Taft-Hartley Act is upheld by the Supreme Court, breaking a 116-day steel strike – 1959
A coal mine explosion in Spangler, Pa. kills 79. The mine had been rated gaseous in 1918, but at the insistence of new operators it was rated as non-gaseous even though miners had been burned by gas on at least four occasions – 1922