The Pullman Strike

American Railway Union members confronting the Illinois National Guard in Chicago, 1894 (source)
American Railway Union members confronting the Illinois National Guard in Chicago, 1894 (source)

The Pullman Strike began May 11, 1894 when approximately 4000 factory employees of the Pullman Company went on strike in response to a reduction in wages. Many of the employees lived in the Pullman company town. When Pullman laid off workers and reduced wages, they did not reduce the rent in the town.

Eugene Debs brought in the American Railway Union, an organization for unskilled railroad workers, to sign up non-union employees. However, the Pullman company refused to recognize the ARU for negotiations. The ARU called for a boycott of all trains carrying Pullman cars, affecting rail lines west of Detroit, and involving close to 250,000 workers in 27 states.

After the strikers refused to end the strike in response to an injunction filed by the federal government, President Grover Cleveland sent in the Army to prevent obstruction of trains. Violence resulted in 30 deaths, 57 injuries, and up to $80 million in property damages. Debs was convicted of violating a court order and sentenced to prison.

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