Friday, September 4, 2009

Labor Day

When George Pullman invented sleeping cars for the railroad back in the 1850’s he build a name for himself, but he also he built an entire town.

If you happened to live in Pullman, Illinois in the 1880’s chances are real good you worked for George Pullman. And if you worked for George Pullman, you probably lived in a George Pullman row house. And you probably went to a Pullman Church and did your shopping locally at a Pullman market.

All was cozy for a little while, but eventually the recession hit and he laid off a large percentage of his workforce. He reduced the wages of the remaining employees. I thought automated deductions from pay was perhaps something new to our era, but he was doing it way back in the 1880’s. If you worked for him, your rent was taken out of your check before you saw it. With the high rent and low pay this didn’t sit so well and his employees began walking out.

When Pullman workers joined the American Railroad Union and began striking and boycotting, President Grover Cleveland called the strike a crime. He deployed the Army to break the dispute. When the strike was officially declared over, the employees promised not to unionize again and this remained true until the great depression.

"The day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed...that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it." ~ Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor 1898

1 comment:

Mike said...

Nice, little informative piece of Americana. Thanks, Tami.