“A. R. U.”


"Been on the hummer since ninety-four, Last job I had was on the Lake Shore, Lost my job in the A.R.U. And I won't get it back till nineteen-two And I'm still on the hog train flagging my meals Ridin' the brake beams close to the wheels."


After the A.R.U. strike of 1894, most of the strikers were blacklisted by the railroad companies. With little else to do, they rode the rods or tried to get jobs under false names -- only to be fired if they were discovered. - RBW

Historical references

  • June 20, 1893 - Socialist Eugene Debs (1855-1926) organizes the A.R.U. (American Railway Union)
  • June 27, 1893 - A severe decline in the stock market leads to the Panic of 1893. The next year will see severe labor troubles as workers try to survive the economic contraction
  • May 11, 1894 - The Pullman Strike. The Pullman employees have been squeezed by the company to the point where they can no longer survive
  • June 26, 1894 - Eugene Debs calls the A.R.U. strike to support the Pullman workers. Roughly 60,000 workers go off the job.
  • July 2, 1894 - Attorney General Olney, who works with railroad interests, convinces President Cleveland to break the Pullman Strike. Cleveland orders Debs to call off the strike on the grounds that it interferes with the U.S. mail. (Pullman cars, however, do not carry mail.)
  • July 6, 1894 - Troops fire on the railroad strikers in Kensington, IL
  • July 10, 1894 - Debs is indicted for defying President Cleveland's injunction (on Dec. 14 he will be sentenced to six months in prison)
  • Aug 3, 1894 - The Pullman strikers give in


  1. Sandburg, pp. 190-191, "A. R. U." (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  2. Greenway-AFP, p. 57, "A.R.U." (1 text)
  3. BI, San190


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1927 (Sandburg)
Found in: US(So)