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THE GREAT SOUTHWEST STRIKE - 1886
Coates House - 1005 Broadway

Revenge Circular

On March 19-20, 1886, Grand Master Workman of the Knights of Labor, the largest labor organization of the 1880s, Terence V. Powderly, met here with other leaders of the Knights, the Governors of Kansas and Missouri and railroad officials to try to bring an end to the Great Southwest Strike. Financier and robber baron Jay Gould had built a system of Midwestern railroads that included the Missouri Pacific, the Missouri Kansas & Texas (M-K-T) and others into a powerful transportation cartel.

A short strike against Gould in 1885 was successful, but at the beginning of March, 1886, a railroad Knight in Marshall, Texas was fired for attending a union meeting on company time. This prompted thousands of other railroad workers to go on strike. The strikers brought the entire "southwest" to a halt, including Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and part of Illinois

Martin Irons
Martin Irons
Executive Committee member of Knights of Labor District 101
and leader of the 1886 Great Southwest Strike

Kansas City was the scene of sharp clashes in the Missouri Pacific Cypress Yard in the West Bottoms. There was also a train derailment in Wyandotte County due to probable sabotage. At the meeting at Coates House the Governors appealed for arbitration, but Gould proceeded to break the strike. The strike's defeat meant that hundreds of Knights, including their leader Martin Irons of Sedalia were permanently blacklisted from further railroad employment anywhere in the country. Irons became a special target of the railroad bosses (and also angered Powderly) because of his militant and unwavering leadership in the strike. After his death, the Missouri Federation of Labor erected a monument to his memory.

Jay Gould
Cartoon attacks Jay Gould, owner of the Missouri Pacific Railway,
The M.K.T. and other midwestern railways.
Gould is famous for saying,
"I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."

 


 
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