Friday, September 3, 2010


It started on May 11, 1894, when around 3,000 union workers started a wildcat strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company in Pullman, Illinois. Traffic west of Chicago quickly ground to a halt. By the time the strike ended two months later, it had grown nationwide, involved more than two dozen states and around a quarter of a million unionists. Violence, threats of violence, about a dozen deaths, and more than a third of a million dollars in damage (which, adjusted for 2010 dollars would be almost $9 Million today), as well as having ignored court injunctions and interfered with U.S. Mail delivery, forced the hand of President Grover Cleveland to intervene. He sent in U.S. Marshalls and thousands of army troops to put down the strike.

Because of the intense conflict, and seeking to soothe the wounds of the unionists involved, the Congress passed legislation declaring a national Labor Day holiday, signed by Cleveland, within a week of the strike’s end.

Even though the power and influence of labor unions has significantly waned since its heyday, it remains a celebration of labor by many, but mostly a celebration of the “end” of summer.

Now you know.

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