The Company:
George Pullman
George Pullman

George Pullman founded the Pullman Palace Car Company, a railroad car manufacturing company, in 1867. In 1880 Pullman created the town of Pullman, Illinois, anentirely company owned town to house his 12000 workers, believing that good housing and a tight knit community would keep productivity high. A Pullman employee once declared, "We are born in a Pullman house, fed from the Pullman shops, taught in the Pullman school, catechized in the Pullman Church, and when we die we shall go to the Pullman Hell," emphasizing the involvement of the Pullman Palace Car Company in their lives. This deep involvement would soon lead to multiple problems for the workers and the company.

The Problems:

Pullman, Illinois
Pullman, Illinois

As a result of the depression in 1893, Pullman was forced to cut the wages of his workers by 25%. The cost of certain amenities in town were not cut to correspond with the low wages, so many workers became agitated and annoyed due to the lower prices in nearby towns, "What we pay $15 for in Pullman is leased for $8 in [neighboring] Roseland...Water which Pullman buys from the city at 8 cents a thousand gallons, he retails to us at 500 percent...Gas which sells at 75 cents per thousand feet in Hyde Park, just north of us, sells for $2.25 [in Pullman].”

One observer of the events that took place in Pullman wrote, "During the winter of 1892/ was abundant, wages fair, and the force of employees increased to between five and six thousand. Then came the...depression...[and the] cutting of wages...with no corresponding reduction of rent....The men were being organized into local unions. Hearing of the success of the American Railway Union, and casting about for someone to champion their cause, these unions appealed to Mr. Debs...of the American Railway Union...”

The Strike:

The immediate cause of the Pullman workers' strike was that Pullman had said he wouldn't fire anyone because they had joined the American Railway Union, but then only days later he turned around and fired those people, going back on his word.
Pullman Strikers
Pullman Strikers
The strike was mainly over Pullman's ignorance of his worker's pleas, the prices for things were too high in Pullman and the workers did not like it. Eugene Debs, the leader of the American Railway Union, urged the Union to negotiate, and so they published this declaration threatening to boycott, "...unless the Pullman Palace Car Company does adjust the grievances before 12 o'clock Tuesday, June 26, 1894, the members of the American Railway Union shall refuse to handle Pullman cars and equipment on or after the date."
George Pullman did not pay any notice to his worker's grievances, and thus a boycott followed on June 26, 1894. Railway workers refused to use Pullman made train cars, causing the shutdown of 27 railway lines. By the end of June, over 125000 workers had joined the boycott so the railroad companies decided to attach Pullman cars to US mail trains in an attempt to stop the boycott by getting the federal government involved. President Grover Cleveland then sent in some federal troops, who then opened fire on a crowd of strikers. Thirty people were killed and the federal courts granted an injunction against the strike. Debs was sent to prison for violating it, and the American Railway Union called off the boycott on August 2.

The Effects:

-Railroad companies lost $60 million in business and $6 million in property damage
-Railroad employees lost $1 million in salary and bonuses
-Federal government used indictments to make striking essentially illegal
-After serving his time in prison, Eugene Debs became interested in socialist ideas and became a leading member of the Socialist Party

"Pullman strike." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Web. 15 May 2011.
Brooks, Thomas R., Toil and Trouble: A History of American Labor, 1971; Lindsey, Almont, Pullman Strike, 1942.
Declaration of the American Railway Union Convention, June 15, 1894
Statement by the Pullman strikers in Chicago, June 15, 1894