The Pullman strike is among the incidents in the United States that severely crippled railway transport. The strike took place in June –July 1894 and left the United States with important lessons. To respond to the unrest, the federal government employed the injunction technique to prompt the striking workers to return to work. The congress and Grove Cleveland created the Labor Day holiday: which serves as a conciliatory gesture to the American Labor movement. This strike emerged when the Pullman Palace Car Company decided to reduce the low wages paid to 25 cents and did not reduce the worker’s rent and other charges on their workers. An attempt made by the workers to complain about their low wages, poor living conditions, and long working hours bore no fruits since Mr. Pullman failed to meet them and orders that all the workers should be fired. Due to the strike, different individuals have offered their perspectives concerning the meaning and reasons why the strike occurred. They include Wade Hampton, Samuel Gompers, and Harry Robinson.
According to Wade Hampton, the occurrence of the strike was meant to communicate the rights and privileges that every citizen has. Every worker has a right to be fairly compensated, an aspect that can be achieved by forming laws that every person should follow (Miles, 188). After the Pullman car company workers experienced a cut in their remuneration, they sought the legal avenue of solving their grievances (Miles, 189). This is evidenced when they tried to have a session with Mr. Pullman, although he failed to meet them. Based on such aspects, Hampton believes that the strike was inexcusable since Pullman filed to reach the employees and address their grievances (Miles, 193).
On the other hand, Harry Robinson, the Pullman strike was meant to address whether the 25 cents received by workers in the company was the primary cause of riots that emerged later (Miles, 196). Robinson believes that the strike occurred as a way of fueling the emergence of a conflict that had already been decided upon. Robinson notes that most labor organizations had a doctrine used to guide their activities (Miles, 198). The doctrine was divided into two sections aimed at offering a suitable path in matters affecting any organization (Miles, 198). Despite these crucial aspects, the leaders in the railroad did not have a proper organization that was crucial in guiding the workers, a factor that led to the emergence of the strike.
Lastly, Samuel Gompers believes that the strike was meant to seek justice for the poorly compensated workers (Miles, 201). According to Gompers, the strike mainly occurred since workers did not receive what they had been promised before joining the Pullman Company. Mr. Pullman had previously stated that his interests and that of his workers were similar. They were promised decent housing conditions and fair compensation. However, it later turned out that Mr. Pullman made his employees entirely dependent on him. Most of the employees were hurdled in houses where they were demanded to pay higher rents (Miles, 202). Additionally, their wages were often reduced as different seasons approached, an aspect that made their living conditions worse.
Based on the perspectives offered by the three individuals, Gompers has portrayed both the reasons and meaning of why the Pullman strike took place in the larger social and political context. This is attributed to the fact that Gompers uses specific examples to show the efforts initiated by the workers to try and get better working conditions and pay from their employers. For instance, Gompers notes that when the employee’s pay was reduced to 25 cents, they appointed a committee to help them represent Pullman’s current grievances. However, Pullman did not listen to the grievances of his employees; instead, he summarily dismissed and discharged the committee from work. Dismissing the committee casually indicates that Pullman did not uphold the rights and privileges of his employees (Miles, 202). Since the employees did not have another avenue to address their grievances, the only option left was to strike.
Miles, Nelson A., et al. “The Lesson of the Recent Strikes.” The North American Review 159.453 (1894): 180-206.