October 20 – The Death of Eugene V. Debs
On this day in Labor History the year was 1926.
That was the day that one of the great labor leaders in U.S. history, Eugene V. Debs, died in Elmhurst, Illinois.
In 1894, Debs gained national attention when his American Railway Union launched a boycott in support of the striking workers of Pullman Palace Car Company.
The strike and the boycott were crushed by federal troops and a federal court.
Debs served six months in jail for his role in the boycott.
Later Debs again would go to jail for standing up for his beliefs.
He was convicted for speaking out against U.S. involvement in World War I.
He was among the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905.
He ran as a Socialist for President of the United States five times, receiving nearly a million votes running his campaign from a prison cell in 1920.
In 1891 Debs wrote an article for the Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine titled “The Unity of Labor”.
His words stand as an eloquent case for worker solidarity.
Debs wrote, “If workingmen were united in sympathetic bonds…if a bricklayer could comprehend the fact that he is dependent on the hod carrier;
if the locomotive engineer could grasp the fact that he is dependent on the locomotive fireman…
the interdependence of labor would at once constitute a bond of union, a chain whose links, forged and fashioned to hold workingmen in harmonious alliance, would girt them with a defense in every time of trouble and resist invasion, though assailed by all the plutocrats that ever cursed the earth.”
Debs spent his life trying to bring about this “harmonious alliance” of working people, and standing up for the causes of peace and justice.
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