Doesn’t the 1st Amendment give people the right to
protest? Aren’t people allowed to come together, say what they think is bad and
want fixed, and know that it is okay because the Constitution says it is? Well,
the government, for some reason, didn’t allow the railroad workers in Pullman,
IL to strike about a problem that they wanted to be fixed, even though that
they have a right to. Railroad workers in Pullman, Illinois were angry at how
poorly George Pullman was treating them. They wanted to be making decent wages
and provide for their family, not dying from an unsafe working environment. They
decided to protest and thousands of people left work in order to do so. The government
became angered because the railroads were not functioning and so, they disallowed
the workers from continuing to strike, calling it “Illegal.” The government was
also mad that the railroads were not running as usual, which was causing
problems for the whole country. The
Pullman Strike caused the government to step in and for the first time, make an
injunction in order to end it, which didn’t allow the railroad workers to get
better working hours, working conditions, or wages.
The railroad workers protested against George Pullman because they
were unhappy. Pullman imposed terrible working conditions. Men became injured
and sometimes even killed due to the equipment. The workers were also working
for low wages and lots of them were fired. On top of that, the workers were
forced to live in Pullman, so the rent was controlled by Pullman. Pullman did
not reduce the rent amount, and this made some workers go hungry and unable to
provide for their families. The workers also worked about 16 hours straight!
Workers became filled with anger and wanted their voices heard. George Pullman
was seeking wealth and nothing else, because $62 million, at which his company
was valued, was definitely not enough for him. Considering all that Pullman
care about was money, it was not surprising to see him do the things that he
did to the railroad workers. Eugene V. Debs, founder of the American Railroad
Union, noticed the issues and was determined to do something about them.
The Pullman Strike had great potential and could have
done serious damage had the government not have stepped in to stop it.
Railroads had a huge role in the development of the United States, so for them
to be stopped was definitely an immense problem. Eugene Debs told workers to
quit the job if a switchman was fired. A switchman was fired and by June 29, the
workers who had quit their job, began stopping trains that tried to leave. The workers
and supporters of the strike successfully stopped all trains that were west of
Chicago. But while these workers were doing so, fights broke out and many
people became hurt. Mail was delivered via railroads and if they were stopped, then
the mail wouldn’t be able to be delivered. This made President Grover Cleveland angry because the strike was now
preventing the federal government from performing an important task that needs
to be done. Also, if the railroads continued to not run, goods could not be
transported and people wouldn’t be able to travel. Traveling by trains was so
much cheaper and faster, but the railroads’ economy could have dramatically
decreased if the strike hadn’t had ended sooner, since nobody could have been
able to travel using them. Railroads were indeed crucial to the development of
the United States.
After the workers’ strike caused more and more problems, the
government became angry. They were mad that the railroads were not getting
anything done because the workers weren’t there to function them. Thousands and
thousands of workers left work to strike, so even if some workers hadn’t had
left, the railroads would’ve still taken a very long time to actually make some
progress. The government wanted the
railroads to be functioning and getting work done to help the country and its
economy. They were also mad because the mail delivering system was also not
functioning, for they need trains to distribute it. The mail system was very
important, so you could expect things to get out-of-hand if it wasn’t
functioning. More problems arose and
President Grover Cleveland became more
frustrated. He had finally had enough. He knew he had to do something about
this nonsense, but what could be done to fix this?
For the first time ever, the government got
involved and imposed an injunction in order to end the strike. The federal
court said that the strike was illegal and that the workers needed to stop.
After the president sent troops into Chicago, rioters became very angry.
The rioters stopped trains and set fire to anything they saw that would burn.
Many people were killed and wounded from bullets because they tried to stop
soldiers from escorting a train through downtown Chicago. Eugene Debs decided
that there was no use in continuing the strike after he was arrested for
interfering with the U.S mail. The workers that continued to work for Pullman
received the same wages, but some of them were blacklisted and they couldn’t be
hired by any railroad in the United States. There were negatives for the
workers no matter what happened to them. They would be struggling to find
another job that could provide for their family if they were blacklisted, or
receiving the same, bad wages if they stayed to work with the railroads and Pullman.
The workers felt that the injunction wasn’t fair
for them because their needs were not met. The workers had felt like their
rights had been taken away because they were not allowed to protest, even
though there was an amendment that said otherwise. Everyone involved seemed to
get what they wanted EXCEPT for the workers themselves. The government was
happy because the railroads were functioning again and making progress,
including delivering the mail. Pullman was happy because he was still enforcing
the cut wages and the increased working hours. He was still able to get the
money that he desired so much. Everyone was doing swell, but all the workers got
was one silly day where they did not have to work. That’s right… just ONE. Congress
approved of making this day in response to the Pullman Strike. The workers
weren’t as mad though because they figured something was better than nothing.
This holiday that everyone seems to enjoy nowadays, is known as Labor Day.