Most of us recognize Labor Day as the end of summer, start of the school semester, beginning of football season and a time for great sales! But a little bit of research reveals a more sordid history of the holiday and how it came to be. Much of the information was derived from www.pbs.org.
Pullman, Illinois was founded by George Pullman, president of the railroad sleeping car company and was designed to insulate his workers from the political unrest and seductions of nearby Chicago. Workers were housed in row houses, managers in modest homes and Mr. Pullman enjoyed a luxury hotel with suites for guests. Wages were paid in Pullman money and managed by the Pullman Bank. In 1893, a national economic depression took hold and Pullman was forced to lay off hundreds of employees. Those who remained realized lower wages, cut hours, but the rents and cost of goods charged by Pullman remained the same. The employees walked out. Union and non-union workers alike took to rioting and burning of railroad cars. President Grover Cleveland declared the strike a federal crime and deployed 12,000 troops to brake the strike. Violence erupted with many injuries and two men were killed when U.S. Deputy Marshalls fired on protesters in Kensington near Chicago. Due to these events, industrial workers’ unions were stamped out and remained so until after the Great Depression. On August 3, 1894, the strike was declared over. President Cleveland’s harsh methods made the appeasement of the nation’s workers a political priority. Just 6 days after his troops had broken the Pullman strike, a bill making the first Monday of September a national holiday, namely Labor Day, was signed into law. It was an election year, but Pres. Cleveland was not reelected.
Gone are the days of the “company store”, “company currency” and all other trappings of keeping us within our perceived boundaries. We are free to live where we want, better our situation and choose our destiny. One piece of the “American Dream” is homeownership. I applaud and encourage everyone striving for that goal! REALTORS everywhere truly believe in that dream. They are there to help guide you in your pursuit or to help you move to your next home. I am proud our area was built by hard-working laborers who instilled in their children the concept of the “American Dream”, meaning fair wages for an honest day’s work, the importance of education and the goal of home ownership.