Labor History in 2:00

August 10 Four Railroad Brotherhoods walk off the job in IL

August 10, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1922. 

That was the day 1300 workers from the four railroad brotherhoods walked off the job in Joliet, near Chicago. 

The walkout threatened to paralyze freight service for steel mills in nearby Gary and other regional industries. 

Four hundred thousand railroad shopmen had been on strike across the country for nearly seven weeks. 

Newspaper headlines that day warned a general strike of two million trainmen loomed on the horizon. 

Brotherhood leaders promised sympathy strikes in response to threats made against their members by troops on duty at railroad centers and yards. 

There were also real concerns about the health and safety of trainmen, given rolling stock was no longer being maintained. 

In Joliet, workers stayed away under threats from troops. 

Additionally, Illinois Central trainmen faced threats from striking miners throughout Kentucky and Illinois, who warned: 

“Stop transporting non-union coal or suffer the consequences.” 

Resentment had been building against state guard troops stationed in Illinois yards. 

Earlier in the week, striking shopmen had engaged in a fatal confrontation with Joliet sheriffs that left a striker and railroad detective dead and scores injured. 

Riot orders were called when authorities sought to arrest striking shopmen who had stormed the home of a scab. 

Brotherhood workers refused to return to work unless troops were removed. 

Warren Stone, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers stated: “We are not going to have our men shot up or beaten up or threatened by armed guards at railroad shops and yards.

When the men cannot go to work without having irresponsible armed guards endangering their lives, they may go home and stay there.

There will be 100 more cases soon if conditions are not changed.”

 

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