The Strike Bulletin: A Chronicle of a Failed Strike

The Strike Bulletin began publication in April 1913. The Strike Bulletin was a weekly paper marketed to labor unionists in the railroad industry. It was published from Clinton, Illinois for the entirety of its run. The Strike Bulletin was the creation of a labor organization called the Illinois Central System Foundation and was edited by Carl E. Person. Person was affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World. The Illinois Central System Foundation organized laborers who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. 

Van Name, Willard G, photographer. Steam locomotive number 4 of the Illinois Central Railroad Company. , 1893. [?] Photograph.
The Illinois Central Railroad, the company which was the focus of most of the paper’s ire, was notorious among union organizers of the period for its violent crackdowns on labor unionists. The ICR stretched from Chicago to New Orleans, making it one of the longest railroad corridors in the world and economically vital. The ICR was also known for buying smaller railroads. A paper devoted to the company’s workers and their ongoing collective bargaining attempts therefore had a wide reach.  The Strike Bulletin centered around a multi-year strike against the Illinois Central Railroad that had begun in 1911. It was known as the Illinois Central Shopmen’s Strike. The Bulletin’s content consisted of covering different geographical areas of the strike such as Mattoon, Clinton, and Paducah. There were also articles predicting the imminent rise of organized railroad workers, such as an April 9, 1913 article titled “Union of All Employees.”  Other articles discussed pressing issues of safety, for example an April 28, 1915 article on “The Car Limit Law.” 

Illinois Central Railroad Bridge. circa 1920. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, (Accessed January 12, 2021.)

After years of unsuccessful efforts, the Shopmen’s Strike ended in June 1915. The Strike Bulletin, which had been created to cover the strike, predeceased the labor action that created it. On December 30, 1913, Person, editor of the Strike Bulletin, was attacked by a former police officer who was acting as a strikebreaker. Person shot and killed the man in self-defense. His ongoing legal battles affected the paper’s output. The Strike Bulletin’s already uneven publication schedule became difficult to continue.   

The Voice of the people. [volume] (New Orleans, La.), 07 May 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
The May 5, 1915 edition of the Strike Bulletin included a notice explaining that the ongoing legal action by the Illinois Central Railroad had impeded their work on the previous week’s edition. Person wrote, “The boycott placed on the Industrial Relations Commission…has handicapped us to such an extent we were unable to publish same this week. However, every effort is being made to have this edition ready for circulation next week.”  

Despite Person’s efforts, the paper’s days were numbered. The railroad used violence, intimidation, harassment, strike breakers, and unrelenting legal pressure to crush the resolve of both the labor union and its newspaper. Additionally, bitter internal rivalries within the union arose. On May 12, 1915, Strike Bulletin published its last edition. However, in October 1915, the defunct Strike Bulletin was succeeded by the National News, a new labor paper out of Chicago edited by Carl E. Person that hoped to have a national reach.

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