Today in labor history: American Railway Union founded

On this day in 1893, the American Railway Union – one of the first industrial unions in the United States – was founded by Chicago railway workers under the leadership of Eugene V. Debs.

Later, in August of that year, the ARU organized workers in an 18-day strike action against the Great Northern Railway, which had imposed wage cuts on its workers. The strike was a victory, as the company proceeded to roll back those cuts.

Prior to the founding of the American Railway Union, Debs worked with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. He later became one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Photo: One of the Great Northern Railway’s trains, the “Empire Builder.” Rail History


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