Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Dubofsky, Melvyn, 1934-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Illinois Central Railroad Company--History


The Illinois Central Railroad Strike was, in a sense, unique. Although it pointed out the obvious Inequality of paver and resources at the hands of capital and labor, it was more than a traditional conflict between the employer and employee. Unlike the typical union endeavor based upon pure and simple trade unionism, this strike grew out of a matter of principle. In this respect, this strike was an adequate mirror of the craft union's response and reaction to the realities of twentieth century corporate life. Like other railroad corporations, the Illinois Central tolerated unions. In the main, they were accepted as long as they knew their place. However, the company felt that organized labor overstepped the bounds of legitimacy when they attempted to attain some influence within the expanding corporate structure. Faced with the likes of the General Hunger's Association end the growing ineffectiveness of unionism based upon craft autonomy, labor responded with System Federation. By pooling all the shop crafts into one committee working far the benefit of ell, the craft unions sought to alleviate the weaknesses of the trade union while retaining the identity of the individual crafts. In essence, it was a step away from pure autonomy yet "an important alternative to industrial unionism." While one would aspect a hostile reaction from the business community, the crucial phase of this strike was the reluctance of the union leaders to accept this minimal reform of the trade union structure. Rather than relinquish a modicum of craft autonomy, the strike was virtually allowed to die. Significantly, anything that was accomplished during the strike was done by the «n an the picket lines. One can understand how this unwillingness to adapt trade unionism to the modem world ultimately meant the initiation of a civil war within the labor movement. Unable to secure redress through the traditional structure, union innovators would be forced to start their own organization that would respond to the industrial economy of the modem world. Of course, this happened with the creation of the Congress at Industrial Organizations in 1935.


Includes bibliographical references.


48 pages




Northern Illinois University

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