Employee and Labor Relations MG 216-44
The US Department of Labor Hall of Fame
Eugene V. Debs & John L. Lewis
Professor Juliet Grant Rachel Frederick Date: 9/24/2013 Monroe College- 2013 Spring Semester
Eugene V Debs
Any discussion on the life of Eugene V Debs quickly raises certain critical questions in the development of the American Labor Movement – Craft vs. Industrial unionism, the viability of potential action and the need for a labor party. Debs himself was at the center of such controversy for at least 50 years as an official of the Locomotive Firemen, the leader of the America Railroad Union and the most popular figure in American Socialism in the first two decades of this century (Robert & Lawrence, p.1). Labor leader, radical, socialist and presidential candidate; Eugene Victor Debs was a homegrown American original. Eugene V. Debs was born in November 5, 1855 and died on October 20th 1926 he was the son of an immigrant. He left school at age 14 and became a railroad shop worker for 5 cents a day. At age 16 he joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and began to work as a union organizer. Although he served as both a city and state elected official, his devotion was to the labor movement. So in 1893 he broke away from the Brotherhood and formed the American Railroad Union (ARU). Frustrated by the inability of the numerous railroad craft unions to maintain solidary during the 18 days strike against the Great Northern Railroad. Debs hoped this union of employees across craft lines would prove able to sustain a job action (Carrell & Heavrin, pg.48 2013). The strike which occurred because of the desperate employees and families from Pullman City who came with an appeal for support in their struggle with the Pullman Company. The so called “Pullman Boycott” grew out of the ARU‘s sympathy for the plight of laid off workers and reduced wages but no reduction in rent or prices for groceries at the company store where they were required to shop. Debs advocated caution and urged efforts at mediation before the ARU took on the Pullman Company. Debs’ words of caution went unheeded, besides, the Pullman executives refused all efforts at mediation, so Deb had no choice but to lead the ARU in the boycott. The full force of support from all the railroad company owners plus the Federal government, including the legal system and the National Guard, not to mention solid support from the press, were all marshaled in a solid front aimed at breaking the strike and destroying the up-start union. The ARU got virtually no support from other unions or the Gompers led American Federation of Labor. The result was total disaster for the ARU. The strike was broken (Jefferson T, 1992). Debs and other ARU officials were sentenced to 6 months in jail for having violated injunction against the strike. There Debs read Marx’s Das Kapital and came to believe that the labor struggle in the U.S represented the struggle between the classes in Socialism versus Capitalism. When Debs started out as a labor organizer he decried strikes and violence. But years after of strikebreaking by Pinkerton agents and rival unions and futility of intrusion struggles led to a change at heart and for the next 30 years, Debs led the Democratic socialist movement among the workers of America. He espoused industrial unionism in the economic realm and socialism in the political realm to protect workers from the unbridled capitalism facing the United States in the century. In his time as Socialist Party of America‘s presidential candidate Debs waged a campaign for such so called...
Cited: Carrrell R.M, & Heavrin C, (2013). Labor Relation and Collective Bargaining: Private and Public Sectors. 10th Edition, New Jersey, Person Education.
Cohen,.S,. & Lawrence, R., (2012). Eugene Debs and the American Movement. Labor Unions and Similar Labor Organizations, 55 (4), 2. Retrieved from Ebscohost.
Jefferson T. (1992). Union Leader. Debs Foundation. Retrieved September 24, 2013, from http://debsfoundation.org
Simkin J, (1997). John L. Lewis. Spartacus Education. Retrieved September 2, 2013,from http.spartacus.schoolnet.co
United Sates Department of Labor. (2002). Eugene V. Debs. United States Department of Labor. Retrieved September 24, 2013, from http://www.dol.gov
United Sates Department of Labor. (2002). John L. Lewis. United States Department of Labor. Retrieved September 24, 2013, from http://www.dol.gov
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