In a House Divided, 1850-1890

United States Strike Commission: PULLMAN COMPANY'S STATEMENT

The absolute necessity of the last reduction in wages, under the existing condition of the business of car manufacturing, had been explained to the committee [of workmen], and they were insisting upon a restoration of the wage scale of the first half of 1893, when Mr. Pullman entered the room and addressed the committee, speaking in substance as follows:

At the commencement of the very serious depression last year, we were employing at Pullman 5,816 men, and paying there $305,000 a month. Negotitions with intending purchasers of railway equipment...were stopped by them, orders already given by others were canceled, and we were obliged to lay off, as you are aware, a large number of men in every department, so that by November 1, 1893, there were only about 2,000 men in all departments, or about one-third the normal number. I realized the procure work immediately, without which then would be great embarrassment, not only to the employees and their families but also to those living in the immediate vicinity, including between 700 and 800 employees who had purchased homes and to whom employment was actually necessary to enable them to complete their payments.

I canvassed the matter thoroughly with the manager of the works and instructed him to cause the men to be assured that the company would do everything in its power to meet the competition which was sure to occur because of the great number of car manufacturers that were in the same condition, and that were exceedingly anxious to keep their men employed. I knew that if there was any work to be let, bids for it would be made upon a much lower basis than ever before...

There has been some complaint made about rents. As to this I would say that the return to this company on the capital invested in the Pullman tenements for the last year and the year before was 3.82 per cent. There are hundreds of tenements in Pullman renting for from $6 to $9 per month, and the tenants are relieved from the usual expenses of exterior cleaning and the removal of garbage, which is done by the company. The average amount collected from employees for gas consumed is about $2 a month... We have recently put in [water] meters, by which we find that the water consumed by the tenants, if paid for at the rate of 4 cents per 1,000 gallons, in accordance with our original contract with the village of Hyde Park, would amount to about $1,000 a month, almost exactly the rate which we have charged the tenants, this company assuming the expense of pumping. At the increased rate the city is now charging us for water we are paying about $500 a month in excess of the amount charged to the tenants. The present pay rolls at Pullman amount to about $7,000 a day.

On the question of rents...they make a manifestly inadequate return upon the investment, so that it is clear they are not, in fact, at an arbitrarily high figure, it may be added that it would not be possible in a business sense so to deal with them.

The renting of the dwellings and the employment of workmen at Pullman are in no way tied together...

U. S. Strike Commission Report, Senate Executive Document No. 7, 53d Congress, 3d session, pp.578-581.

Focus Questions:

© Illinois State Museum 31-Dec-96