Strikes Have Their Uses

The Bryan-Thurston Senate race took place in the context of a massive strike by Pullman car and railroad workers in the summer of 1894. Both men vied for the support of workingmen.


Samuel Gompers Says They Call Attention to the Condition of Labor


Informed the Commission that the Present Hearing Was Simply an Inquest and Came Too Late to Do Labor Any Good.

CHICAGO, Aug. 25.—President Debs of the American Railway union was recalled today by the strike commission. In reply to questions he stated that he did not favor compulsory arbitration in the settlement of labor troubles. He did not believe, he said, that such a method would prove universally satisfactory. Mr. Debs was asked if he knew of any dissatisfaction among the Rock Island employes previous to the strike. He said that there had been trouble among the telegraphers of the road and that there was much dissatisfaction. Questioned as to the statement that there were not more than 200. American Railway union men on the Rock Island, the witness said the statement was absurd. "The fact that the road was completely tied up," he added, "effectually disapproves such a story.

Superintendent Dunlap of the Rock Island declared the alleged black list had no existence.

Superintendent of Police Brennan was asked to tell how the disorder growing out of the strike was handled. "On June 26 the mayor directed me to use the entire force to protect property and prevent violence. Until the arrival of troops on July 23 the force had handled it without any great violence and practically no destruction of property. Complaints were made that policemen did not do their full duty in lawlessness." He said that many of those complaints were made by deputy marshals who were more in the way than of service.


Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, gave some valuable evidence. He prefaced his testimony by a brief outline of the aims and principles of the federation and gave figures showing the membership of the organization. The witness told of the calling of the conference of the heads of labor organizations which was held at the Briggs house in Chicago. He said that after long deliberation the delegates decided to request President Cleveland to attempt to settle the strike. "We thought," Gompers said, "that if Mr. Gladstone could do so much good service in the English coal strike such an attempt would not be beneath the dignity of the president of the United States. Accordingly a telegram was sent to Mr. Cleveland asking his aid. To that message he did not deign to reply. In fact, he took not the slightest notice of it. Mr. Debs was then called upon and gave a history of the boycott, the Pullman trouble and the railroad strike. "We considered the matter carefully and finally decided that we could not order a general strike, that if would be a usurpation of power and would for many reasons be unwise. The delegates expressed their sympathy with the movement and soon afterward we adjourned."

Mr. Gompers then read from the secretary's report a detailed statement of the proceedings of the conference.

Mr. Gompers explained that to effect a general strike all the unions participating must agree on the action, and said that if would have been impossible for the Briggs house conference to have declared a general sympathetic strike. He was asked for his opinion as to methods for preventing strikes.

"I do not condemn strikes as heartily as do some men," he said. "I believe that so long as present conditions exist they are necessary, and I believe all strikes do good by calling attention to the fact that the laboring man will not be driven farther down into poverty. I think the action of the strikers in paralyzing the railroads of the country was justifiable."

The witness was rather frankly uncomplimentary in his opinion of the strike commission.

"I think this thing is a little late in the day," he said. "This examination by the commissioners' is rather in the nature of an inquest of a dead body. I don't anticipate great good from the present investigation."

The witness had something he wanted to say about the injunctions issued by the court. He held these injunctions were not rightly based on the interstate commerce law; that that law was not intended to apply to labor organizations. He said the injunctions were based upon court made law, upon decisions give in the absence of law.

When Mr. Gompers finished the commission adjourned until Monday. An error crept into last night's report of the proceedings before the commission investigating the Pullman strike. The statement was made that Mr. St. John, general manager of the Rock Island, testified that a list of names had been prepared for the General Managers association containing the names of the most active strikers. Mr. St. John made up such statement, but testified that neither the Rock Island nor the General Managers association had ever kept a black list or that they had such at the present time.


Sacramento Citizens Raise a Fund for That Purpose

SACRAMENTO, Cal., Aug. 25.—A fund of $300 subscribed by the citizens of Sacramento for the purpose of erecting a suitable monument over the graves of Privates Dugan, Byrne and Lubberding of the Fifth United States artillery and Engineer Clarke, who lost their lives on July 11 last at the railroad trestle near this city through the act of strikers, has been turned over to Colonel William M. Graham, in command of the United States troops here. The federal troops are still guarding the Central Pacific railroad from Davisville, twenty miles west of Sacramento, to Truckee, near the Nevada state line, and sentries are posted at the bridges, culverts, tunnels and other exposed places. The force is gradually being withdrawn and it is probable that all the troops will return to the Presidio, San Francisco, about September 1.

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha Daily Bee
  • Citation: 7
  • Date: August 26, 1894