Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MAU­REEN O’DON­NELL, STAFF RE­PORTER mod­on­nell@suntimes.com | @sun­time­so­bits

When Teri Gage walked through the his­toric Clock Tower at the Pull­man Na­tional Mon­u­ment in Fe­bru­ary “there were trees grow­ing in the build­ing,” she said.

“Now we have con­crete floors, we have fram­ing for the in­te­rior walls,” said Gage, the Na­tional Park Ser­vice su­per­in­ten­dent for the 12-acre site at 111th Street and Cot­tage Grove Av­enue.

Gage cel­e­brated the ren­o­va­tions at a cer­e­mo­nial ground­break­ing on La­bor Day, along with Illi­nois politi­cians and la­bor lead­ers who said they were stand­ing on sa­cred ground for union ac­tivism.

The Pull­man Na­tional Mon­u­ment, the lo­ca­tion of the na­tion’s first planned in­dus­trial com­mu­nity, links back to two his­toric events that helped birth or­ga­nized la­bor.

In 1894, when Ge­orge Pull­man cut wages for thou­sands of work­ers who built his lux­ury rail cars — but not the rents in his com­pany town — a wild­cat na­tional rail strike erupted. Fed­eral troops were brought in and vi­o­lence broke out. The en­su­ing la­bor anger con­trib­uted to what’s been de­scribed as a mol­li­fy­ing move: cre­ation of a fed­eral hol­i­day to honor work­ers.

The strike “would ig­nite the la­bor and civil rights move­ments across the coun­try,” Mayor Lori Light­foot said Mon­day.

Years later, in 1937, the Broth­er­hood of Sleep­ing Car Porters, or­ga­nized by A. Philip Ran­dolph, won a la­bor con­tract from Pull­man. It was “the first ma­jor la­bor agree­ment be­tween a union led by African Amer­i­cans and a cor­po­ra­tion and is con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant mark­ers since Re­con­struc­tion to­ward African Amer­i­can in­de­pen­dence from racist pa­ter­nal­ism,” ac­cord­ing to the 2015 procla­ma­tion in which then Pres­i­dent Barack Obama named the Pull­man site a na­tional mon­u­ment.

Bob Re­iter, pres­i­dent of the Chicago Fed­er­a­tion of La­bor, said the 1894 and 1937 de­vel­op­ments made the city the “home­town” of the la­bor move­ment.

“It started right here,” added Colleen Callahan, di­rec­tor of the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

The Chicago Fed­er­a­tion of La­bor, an as­so­ci­a­tion of nearly 300 la­bor groups, has an own­er­ship stake in Sun-Times Me­dia.

Ald. An­thony Beale (9th) said the Pull­man Na­tional Mon­u­ment will be a ful­crum for re­de­vel­op­ment in his ward. It’s sched­uled to open in the fall of 2021.

The ground­break­ing took place in front of the Clock Tower that will be the visi­tors’ cen­ter. It’s the state’s first na­tional mon­u­ment — a des­ig­na­tion cre­ated by a U.S. pres­i­dent, Gage said. The Lin­coln Home in Spring­field — a na­tional his­toric site — was es­tab­lished by leg­is­la­tion, she said.

Af­ter the ground­break­ing, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he “wouldn’t be sur­prised” if re­ports of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump mak­ing in­sult­ing com­ments about ser­vice mem­bers were true.

“I hope he didn’t say those things, but I wouldn’t be sur­prised,” Durbin said, not­ing he served for years in the Se­nate with

John McCain, a for­mer POW. “This pres­i­dent said that none of his he­roes got cap­tured.”

And “he re­fuses to even raise the is­sue with (Rus­sian Pres­i­dent) Vladimir Putin as to whether there was a bounty on the lives of Amer­i­can sol­diers” in Afghanista­n, Durbin said.


The Pull­man Na­tional Mon­u­ment hosted a cer­e­mo­nial ground­break­ing Mon­day.

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