Chicago Labor Day Parade returns to city's Pullman neighborhood

Two Pullman Car workers who still live in the neighborhood participated in the Labor Day parade and discussed the holiday's significance

NBC Universal, Inc.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Chicago Labor Day Parade returned to the Pullman neighborhood on Saturday.

“Pullman is one of the most famous labor history sites in the whole world," said Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. “You’re going to see workers expressing solidarity with each other."

After taking place on the city's East Side for the past nine years, the decision was made to bring the parade back to Pullman. That move coincided with the neighborhood's deep ties to the labor movement.

In 1894 Pullman Company workers went on strike, causing a disruption to rail traffic in the Midwest. In response to the crisis then President Grover Cleveland created the national holiday, Labor Day.

Two people in attendance Saturday were especially pleased to see the parade trek throughout Pullman.

"My brother and I, we’d go to work laughing. And come home laughing," Ray Quiroz told NBC Chicago. He and his brother, Al, chuckled at those memories. Ray, 85, and Al, 87, are believed to be the last two remaining Pullman Car workers still living in the neighborhood.

The two started working at the Pullman Company in 1959, and they helped build the historic Pullman Rail Cars.

"I had the opportunity to install all the doors in the car, the pocket doors, swinging doors," Al said. "I used to drill a hole through a penny and put the penny as a washer to the wall, cover that up, and I said to myself 'this is a good suggestion that the car will last forever.' Mr. Lincoln is going to watch over this car,'" he joked.

The two brothers were born and raised in Pullman, and still love the community today.

“It’s a long overdue time," Al said. “The idea is people recognize the town of Pullman, and the remaining Pullman employees who live here.”

While they enjoyed work, it came with a few challenges.

They went on strike twice during their time with the company over concessions and contracts.

“The union backed us up on everything," Al said. "We didn’t get all we wanted but the idea is that we were satisfied and went back to work.”

Now, the two want to return the favor and show their support for the unions while participating in the parade.

"The union has supported us throughout the years, now we are here to support the union," Ray said.

Contact Us