Labor Day: Democratic Appeasement to Big Labor

Labor Day: Democratic Appeasement to Big Labor

Al Ritter

When you think about Labor Day, you think about pools closing down, cookouts, and the impending end of summer, but little do we think about the real cause for the holiday. The cause for the holiday was enacted by President Grover over the Pullman strike. In 1893 the Pullman Company was struggling with declining sales and hard times and had increased workers hours and decreased wages. Company owner George Pullman declined to meet with union representatives from the American Railway Union.

Eugene Debs the ARU president increased pressure on Pullman by organizing a massive boycott through 125,000 railroad workers, virtually shutting down the railroads in America. Grover Cleveland felt that this shutdown interfered with the delivery of the mail and therefore violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Cleveland sent US Marshals and some 12,000 military troops to break up the strike. After the dust had settled 13 strikers laid dead and 57 were wounded. Some 6000 workers did over $360,000 in damages ($8.8 million in 2010 dollars.)

In 1894 Cleveland tried his best to appease the ARU and declared the first national Labor Day celebration. Debs was imprisoned 6 months for his part in denying an injunction to end the strike.The name Eugene Debs may ring a bell with some readers, he later became a candidate for president under the banner of the Socialist Party of America in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920 from his prison cell. Noted for his oratory, it was a speech denouncing American participation in World War I that led to his second arrest in 1918. He was convicted under the Espionage Act of 1917 and sentenced to a term of 10 years. President Warren G. Harding commuted his sentence in December 1921. Debs died in 1926 not long after being admitted to a sanatorium.

Congress passed the declaration of Labor Day in just six days siting that they would now place union pacification at the top of their priority list………….not much different from today……..and now you know the rest of the story!