Illinois History Minutes

September 5 Illinois History Minute


Today is Labor Day, a holiday born partly out of the 1894 strike against the Pullman factory in Chicago … and a subsequent railroad boycott. After the American Railroad Union ignored court orders, President Grover Cleveland sent Army troops to Chicago to stop strikers from obstructing the trains. As the strike collapsed, Cleveland and Congress offered an olive branch --- legislation establishing the first Monday in September as a labor holiday. It was something trade unions had been seeking for years, although many wanted the labor holiday to be held on May First. President Cleveland feared the May First date would carry a politically charged connection to the Chicago Haymarket riot of May 1886. Cleveland had long advocated for a September Labor Day, and his suppression of the Pullman strike created a window for its passage.