Labor, Environmental Leaders Laud President Obama’s Decision to Make Pullman Area a National Monument

The BlueGreen Alliance lauds President Barack Obama for making the Pullman area of Chicago—the site of the Pullman Palace Car Company’s planned industrial town where workers made sleeper cars for rail passengers—a national monument.

February 19, 2015

Site Will Celebrate Heritage of Labor and Civil Rights Movements

CHICAGO (February 19, 2015) – President Barack Obama today announced that the Pullman area of Chicago—the site of the Pullman Palace Car Company’s planned industrial town where workers made sleeper cars for rail passengers—was designated as a national monument. The president used his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate the site under the portfolio of the National Park Service.

“Protecting the Pullman area for future generations is the right thing to do,” said Scott Marshall, Coordinator of Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) District 7. “I applaud the president and his decision to make this site that is so vital to the history of the labor movement a national monument.”

The Pullman site was the first planned industrial town and the site of an1894 strike that triggered America’s first industry-wide walkout. Several workers died at the hands of U.S. marshals and the military and the leaders behind the strike were imprisoned. The strike and the events that followed provided a vital spark for the burgeoning labor movement in the nation. In the wake of the strike, Congress honored slain workers by making Labor Day a national holiday.

“Designation as a national monument finally gives this site the recognition it deserves. It also expands our country’s public lands system to be more inclusive and representative of the full American story,” said Chuck Frank, Highland Park resident and member of Sierra Club’s Board of Directors.

The 300-acre site saw the birth of the first African-American union in America. In the 1920s, the Pullman Company was one of the largest employers of African-Americans in the country. The Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters was the first African American labor union to secure bargaining rights, and chose A. Philip Randolph as its leader. As a labor leader, civil rights and social justice activist, Randolph helped win labor concessions through the 1940s that paved the way for Civil Rights victories in the 1960s and 1970s.

“This will ensure the legacy of Pullman won’t be forgotten and will recognize the sacrifices made by workers for generations,” said Tom Conway, Jr., Regional Program Manager for the BlueGreen Alliance. “This place is a unique part of the American experience and the BlueGreen Alliance thanks the president for his leadership in ensuring its preservation.”

For the last several years, the Pullman community has seen strong public and private investment. The State of Illinois has recently completed a $4 million renovation of the historic Hotel Florence, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, a non-profit developer, has invested more than $11 million in renovating historic Pullman rowhouses and the historic Pullman Wheelworks saw a $30 million renovation into 210 affordable rental units.

Chicago remains an important manufacturing center, and the BlueGreen Alliance is one of many local and national labor, community, environmental, and industrial groups working to spur a resurgent and community-supporting rail manufacturing industry in the area.

The newly designated national monument is expected to draw as many as 300,000 visitors annually and create several hundred jobs. It is the first national monument designated in Chicago.