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(22,336 posts)
Mon Sep 7, 2015, 08:39 AM Sep 2015

Labor Day, the labor movement, and black Americans


Many working people across the United States are enjoying a three-day weekend thanks to Labor Day. But sadly, it has become more of a retail holiday and a marker for the end of summer than a celebration of workers and organized labor. Even those who do honor workers and unions rarely explore the historical links between the Pullman Strike of 1894 and the black Pullman porters who could not strike—because they weren't allowed in a whites-only union.

In an op-ed for The Grio, Theodore R. Johnson wrote about how Labor Day was born:

Labor Day was nationally established after the Pullman Strike of 1894 when President Grover Cleveland sought to win political points by honoring dissatisfied railroad workers. This strike did not include porters or conductors on trains, but for the black porters, racism fueled part of the workers’ dissatisfaction, and was never addressed. Pullman porters were black men who worked in the trains’ cars attending to their mostly white passengers, performing such tasks as shining shoes, carrying bags, and janitorial services. During this period, this profession was the largest employer of blacks in the nation and constituted a significant portion of the Pullman company’s workforce, yet blacks were not allowed to join the railroad worker’s union.

Being excluded from the right to even fight for fair work and wages, the Pullman porters formed their own union called the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, the first black union, and A. Philip Randolph was its first president. That name should sound familiar: the first planned March on Washington was Randolph’s brainchild. Set to take place in the 1940s, this demonstration was called off weeks before its kick-off date because President Roosevelt met with Randolph and other civil rights leaders in 1941, and signed an order barring racial discrimination in the federal defense industry. Roosevelt did so to stop the march from happening.
Labor Day, the labor movement, and black Americans (Original Post) gollygee Sep 2015 OP
K&R Starry Messenger Sep 2015 #1
in chicago, of all places, unions refused to allow blacks. mopinko Sep 2015 #2
KNR. n/t DirkGently Sep 2015 #3
K&R - thank you for this post! nt scarletwoman Sep 2015 #4
K&R Number23 Sep 2015 #5
Great post! murielm99 Sep 2015 #6


(68,754 posts)
2. in chicago, of all places, unions refused to allow blacks.
Mon Sep 7, 2015, 10:55 AM
Sep 2015

the construction trades here were notoriously racist, and kept blacks (and women) out of apprenticeship programs until affirmative action became a thing.
still under represented except as laborers.

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