Labor Day

This is a holiday with one shaky past. Pullman_strikers_outside_Arcade_Building

In 1894 the country was in a recession. The owner of the Pullman Palace Car Co. decided to up his bottom line by cutting wages without cutting hours or  cutting prices he charged workers for rent and goods.

The 3000 workers in Pullman, Illinois said enough was enough and started a wildcat strike. That pulled in the American Railway Union. They began a nation-wide boycott; union members refused to run trains with Pullman cars. There were 250,000 railroad workers in 7 states, in days, half of them quit rather than handle Pullman cars.

The workers’ solidarity forced factory shutdowns and lockouts well beyond Pullman.

Management hired replacement workers and conflicts escalated. President Cleveland  ordered federal officials to intervene citing strikers for anti-trust violations. When it was over, 13 workers were dead, 57 wounded and damages totaled over 8 million in today’s dollars.

So what did Congress do? Hugely concerned of a backlash, they scurried around and in 6 days came up with Labor Day, a national holiday to honor workers.  “Communities will host street parades to show the strength and esprit de corps of labor followed by a festival for workers and their families.”

Hmmm, is it just me? Or do you think Debt Ceiling Day will be next?

Source: Wikipedia including image of striking workers, 1894

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