Doesn’t the 1st Amendment give people the right toprotest? Aren’t people allowed to come together, say what they think is bad andwant 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 thatthey have a right to. Railroad workers in Pullman, Illinois were angry at howpoorly George Pullman was treating them. They wanted to be making decent wagesand provide for their family, not dying from an unsafe working environment.
Theydecided to protest and thousands of people left work in order to do so. The governmentbecame angered because the railroads were not functioning and so, they disallowedthe workers from continuing to strike, calling it “Illegal.” The government wasalso mad that the railroads were not running as usual, which was causingproblems for the whole country. ThePullman Strike caused the government to step in and for the first time, make aninjunction in order to end it, which didn’t allow the railroad workers to getbetter working hours, working conditions, or wages.The railroad workers protested against George Pullman because theywere unhappy. Pullman imposed terrible working conditions. Men became injuredand sometimes even killed due to the equipment.
The workers were also workingfor low wages and lots of them were fired. On top of that, the workers wereforced to live in Pullman, so the rent was controlled by Pullman. Pullman didnot reduce the rent amount, and this made some workers go hungry and unable toprovide for their families. The workers also worked about 16 hours straight!Workers became filled with anger and wanted their voices heard. George Pullmanwas seeking wealth and nothing else, because $62 million, at which his companywas valued, was definitely not enough for him. Considering all that Pullmancare about was money, it was not surprising to see him do the things that hedid to the railroad workers.
Eugene V. Debs, founder of the American RailroadUnion, noticed the issues and was determined to do something about them. The Pullman Strike had great potential and could havedone 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 themto be stopped was definitely an immense problem. Eugene Debs told workers toquit the job if a switchman was fired.
A switchman was fired and by June 29, theworkers who had quit their job, began stopping trains that tried to leave. The workersand supporters of the strike successfully stopped all trains that were west ofChicago. But while these workers were doing so, fights broke out and manypeople became hurt. Mail was delivered via railroads and if they were stopped, thenthe mail wouldn’t be able to be delivered. This made President Grover Cleveland angry because the strike was nowpreventing the federal government from performing an important task that needsto be done. Also, if the railroads continued to not run, goods could not betransported and people wouldn’t be able to travel. Traveling by trains was somuch cheaper and faster, but the railroads’ economy could have dramaticallydecreased if the strike hadn’t had ended sooner, since nobody could have beenable to travel using them. Railroads were indeed crucial to the development ofthe United States.
After the workers’ strike caused more and more problems, thegovernment became angry. They were mad that the railroads were not gettinganything done because the workers weren’t there to function them. Thousands andthousands of workers left work to strike, so even if some workers hadn’t hadleft, the railroads would’ve still taken a very long time to actually make someprogress. The government wanted therailroads to be functioning and getting work done to help the country and itseconomy. They were also mad because the mail delivering system was also notfunctioning, for they need trains to distribute it.
The mail system was veryimportant, so you could expect things to get out-of-hand if it wasn’tfunctioning. More problems arose andPresident Grover Cleveland became morefrustrated. He had finally had enough. He knew he had to do something aboutthis nonsense, but what could be done to fix this?For the first time ever, the government gotinvolved and imposed an injunction in order to end the strike. The federalcourt 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 stopsoldiers from escorting a train through downtown Chicago. Eugene Debs decidedthat there was no use in continuing the strike after he was arrested forinterfering with the U.
S mail. The workers that continued to work for Pullmanreceived the same wages, but some of them were blacklisted and they couldn’t behired by any railroad in the United States. There were negatives for theworkers no matter what happened to them.
They would be struggling to findanother job that could provide for their family if they were blacklisted, orreceiving the same, bad wages if they stayed to work with the railroads and Pullman.The workers felt that the injunction wasn’t fairfor them because their needs were not met. The workers had felt like theirrights had been taken away because they were not allowed to protest, eventhough there was an amendment that said otherwise. Everyone involved seemed toget what they wanted EXCEPT for the workers themselves. The government washappy because the railroads were functioning again and making progress,including delivering the mail.
Pullman was happy because he was still enforcingthe cut wages and the increased working hours. He was still able to get themoney that he desired so much. Everyone was doing swell, but all the workers gotwas one silly day where they did not have to work. That’s right… just ONE. Congressapproved of making this day in response to the Pullman Strike.
The workersweren’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.