The Pullman Strike

The Pullman Strike role-play explores a defining moment in American labor history. What is the proper balance of power between bosses and workers? How much influence should big companies have over people's lives?

This VOXPOP is set in Chicago in 1894, during the Pullman Strike. Students take on the roles of Executives, Union Workers, ARU Allies and Non-Union Workers. After being introduced to the situation, students work with other members of their group to define their values.

Students then debate and vote on three key issues:

Pay - Who gets to decide what a fair wage is?

Housing - Should a company control how its workers live?

Management - Who gets to make decisions in the workplace?

At the end of the VOXPOP, an epilogue video lays out what actually happened.


Students: 6 to 50

Running Time: 90 minutes (the role-play can be broken into multiple sessions)

Teacher Guide: Pullman Strike Teacher Walkthrough PDF


Jenny Lim

Mattia Romeo

Greg Trefry

Matthew Wilding

Testing & Evaluation

Camillia Matuk

Talia Hurwich


Jack Kelly, The Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest Labor Uprising in America, St. Martin's Press, 2019.

Liston Edgington Leyendecker, Palace Car Prince: A Biography of George Mortimer Pullman, University Press of Colorado, 1992.

Richard Schneirov (editor), The Pullman Strike and the Crisis of the 1890s: Essays on Labor and Politics, University of Illinois Press, 1999.


Library of Congress

Chicago History Museum

Newberry Library

American Business History Center

Special Thanks

Tamara Gordon

Raquel Solorzano-Dueñas

Thalia Wood