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THE SOUTHWESTERN RAILROAD STRIKE
Harper's Weekly—April 3, 1886

THERE is a less clearly defined purpose in the strike of the Knights of Labor employed by the Southwestern railroads than in any other of recent years. Early in March a stake was ordered by the Knights of Labor of certain employees of the Texas and Pacific Railroad Company, because a foreman had been dismissed, it was claimed, contrary to an agreement between the railway company and the organization to which he belonged. The receiver of the railroad refused to reemploy the dismissed man, and the Knights of Labor thereupon ordered a strike, first of the men employed in the shops of the Missouri Pacific Company, and then of other employees who were members of the organization. This was in effect a boycott, the purpose of the strikers being to compel the receiver of the Texas and Pacific road to reemploy the dismissed Knight by obstructing traffic oil connecting roads. Mr. H. M. Hoxie, Vice-President of the Missouri Pacific Company, at once informed a committee of the strikers that the Texas road was not in any way under his jurisdiction, and that he had no power to cause the reinstatement of the dismissed foreman. Meanwhile, all freight trains on the "GOULD system" of roads, which centres at St. Louis, were stopped, and the greatest blockade of traffic has followed that has been known since the blockade caused by the general strike of railroad employees in 1877. Mr. HOXIE published a statement to the public, in which lie claimed that the employees of the roads over which his authority extended had made no complaint, and had no cause to make complaint, and that the blockade of traffic was caused with. out provocation by the management of the Missouri Pacific Company.

In reply to that, committees of the Knights of Labor have published addresses to the public, to the business men of St. Louis and to all organizations of working-men, in which they set forth that the managers of the "GOULD system" of roads have violated in a succession of instances an agreement entered into in 1884 between the companies and the Knights about increase of pay of certain employees, and the conditions on which men should be dismissed. To these ex post facto explanations the managers of the blockaded railways have not replied. But the Governors of Missouri and Kansas met at St. Louis, held a conference with Mr. HOXIE and at a subsequent conference with a committee of the Knights made an effort to effect a reconciliation. But the Knights refused to return to work without assurance that greater consideration would be given them than hitherto by the managers of the roads. They issued an address refusing to return to work unless a new agreement should be made defining in particular the influence that would be given to their decision concerning the dismissal of men from the service, and threatening a general trial of strength between the Knights and the railroad companies, not only of the GOULD system, but all its connections eastward and southward. Another address issued by the strikers on the 24th declared that reconciliation was impossible unless more substantial recognition should be given to the Knights of Labor. Mr. T. V. POWDERLY, the chief executive officer of the organization, oil the same day wrote to ex-Governor CURTIN, member of Congress from Pennsylvania, asking for Congressional investigation of the strike and its causes.

For eighteen days the blockade was maintained without other deeds of violence at St. Louis than preventing of freight trains from moving. The Governors of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Texas issued proclamations on the 20th, calling on the managers of the roads to send out their trains as usual, and on all officers of the law to afford them protection. The railroad company made efforts daily to send out trains, but the strikers disabled the engines, uncoupled the ears, and otherwise prevented a resumption of traffic. The number of men out of employment is not less than 10,000, and the loss to the railroads and to owners of freight is incalculable. The effect of the blockade is felt from one side of the continent to the other.


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