Today in labor history: Eugene Debs initiates boycott against Pullman railroad

On this day in 1894, the American Railway Union (ARU), led by Eugene Debs, initiated a boycott against the Pullman Palace Car Company. The boycott involved worker’s refusing to run trains carrying Pullman cars and supported an ongoing strike of railway workers in response to company wage cuts.

Over 225,000 workers joined the boycott as it gained in strength prompting President Grover Cleveland to use federal troops to support an injunction barring union leaders from aiding the strike. Debs was jailed for refusing to adhere to the court order and served a six-month term. While in prison, the union leader read Karl Marx and became a socialist.

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