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Mon Sep 5, 2016, 10:54 AM

The bloody history of Labor Day

"Most people probably don't think of Labor Day as a holiday commemorating struggle and death. But that's what it used to be."

Source: The Week, by Jeff Spross

Railroad baron George Pullman created his eponymous town in 1880 just outside Chicago. It was a model of capitalist feudalism, with workers offered housing in line with their position in the company. Residents worked for Pullman's company and their rent was automatically docked from their paychecks. They even banked at Pullman's bank. But Pullman's business plummeted when the recession hit. Hundreds were laid off and wages were deeply cut yet rents in the town did not decline.

In response, 4,000 of Pullman's workers went on strike on May 11, 1894.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union led by Eugene V. Debs called for a supporting boycott. One hundred and fifty thousand railway workers in 27 states joined the strike, refusing to operate Pullman rail cars. The massive halt to the rail industry and the interruption of U.S. mail cars set off a national crisis. Congress and President Grover Cleveland, looking to save face, rushed through a bill declaring Labor Day a national holiday. Cleveland signed it on June 28, 1894. He was backed by the AFL the more conservative portion of the labor movement which threw the first official Labor Day parade that year.

But it was a brutally ironic gesture.

Six days later, under pressure from the furious leaders of the rail industry, and facing the virtual shutdown of U.S. mail trains, Cleveland invoked the Sherman Antitrust Act to declare the stoppage a federal crime. He sent in 12,000 federal troops to break the strike. Days of fighting and riots ensued, as strikers overturned and burned railcars, and the troops responded with violent crackdowns. Anywhere from a dozen to over 30 workers were killed before the strikers were dispersed and the trains restarted.

Debs was sent to prison, where he read Marx for the first time, setting him on the path to becoming arguably America's most famous socialist.

Read it all at: http://theweek.com/articles/646621/bloody-history-labor-day

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Reply The bloody history of Labor Day (Original post)
yallerdawg Sep 2016 OP
guillaumeb Sep 2016 #1

Response to yallerdawg (Original post)

Mon Sep 5, 2016, 09:59 PM

1. History that is rarely, if ever, taught.

The accepted talking points today revolve around "corrupt union bosses" and "unions served a purpose once, but..."

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