On this date in 1893, the American Railway Union, headed by Eugene V. Debs, was founded.
Dedicated to uniting all rail workers "into one, compact working force for legislative as well as industrial action," the American Railway Union had a metoric rise and fall in the space of a couple short years.
It led a successful walkout by employees of the Great Northern Railroad in April 1894, and quickly grew to 150,000 members, but just a year later the union was defunct and Debs was serving a short prison sentence for contempt of court. The union had launched a nationwide boycott of all trains that included Pullman cars in July 1894, supporting striking Pullman employees, and the railroads, acting in close collaboration with Attorney General Richard Olney, persuaded federal judges to grant an injunction prohibiting virtually all activities by the American Railway Union in support of the boycott.
ARU officers were arrested, and when Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor refused to call for a general strike to support the boycott, the ARU admitted defeat.
Today’s labor quote is by Eugene Debs, who said
"I never had much faith in leaders. I am willing to be charged with almost anything, rather than to be charged with being a leader. I am suspicious of leaders, and especially of the intellectual variety. Give me the rank and file every day in the week."
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