Press Release – National Monument designation in Chicago to honor labor history

Durango, CO (February 10, 2015) – The Conservation Lands Foundation applauded the news that President Obama plans to honor our country’s labor history – including the formation of the first African-American labor union – with a national monument designation for the Pullman Historic District in Chicago, Illinois.

“The American people deeply value their lands and heritage and want these places better protected for our children and grandchildren. Designating a national monument at the Pullman site demonstrates the President’s commitment to preserving the places – natural and historic – that define us as a nation and fully reflect the diversity of our heritage,” said Brian O’Donnell, Executive Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation.

Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood is closely linked to the proud history of the American labor movement.  African American workers employed by the Pullman Company as porters and maids were not well-represented and continued to struggle for worker’s rights. Shortly after the deadly strike at the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1894, when U.S. Marshalls and Army troops clashed with striking rail-car workers angered by the loss of jobs and a cut in wages, disrupting passenger rail service nationwide, Congress passed legislation creating a national Labor Day holiday.

Following bipartisan attempts to secure designation for the Pullman site legislatively, in September 2014, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL-13), Aaron Schock (R-IL-18), and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-16) send a letter to President Obama requesting that he use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate a portion of the Pullman Historic District as a national monument. This action is supported by nearly 15,000 individuals, organizations, and businesses, including labor unions, African American leaders, economic development organizations, tourism groups, and historic preservation groups.

Through the designation of eleven new national monuments and the expansion of two others, President Obama has worked to recognize the people and parts of America’s story that were for too long overlooked despite our proud tradition of conservation. The President has honored the achievements of the farm workers movement and the late labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, and African-American leaders including Harriett Tubman and Colonel Charles Young for their contributions. President Obama has also protected sacred lands like Chimney Rock and Rio Grande del Norte, sites with cultural importance to Native American tribes, and which tell the story of some of the earliest Americans.

“We look forward to President Obama’s continued leadership in protecting our nation’s most significant natural and historic treasures for all Americans, and protecting the laws that have allowed sixteen Presidents—eight from each party—to enact these important protections when Congress is unwilling to do so,” stated O’Donnell.

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