ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
MEMORIAL OF THE CHICAGO TEAMSTERS UNION NO. 1 FOR THE CITY TO CONTRACT EXCLUSIVELY WITH UNION TEAMSTERS
February 6, 1893
The first local organization of teamsters in Chicago occurred in 1867. Hack owners and drivers had united in petitioning the city council for an increase in the fares they could charge legally. The lives of teamsters were rough and demanding. By the norm they worked twelve-hour days six-and-a-half days a week. The only holidays were the Fourth of July and Christmas Day and these were spent without pay. In addition to driving teams, horses had to be cared for and equipment maintained. Competition was fierce and the general public associated the teamsters' status often rightly with that of the criminal class. Among themselves teamsters had their own hierarchy. There were owners of large businesses, owner-operators of small outfits, and hired hands. Among and within these levels there were constant conflicts and consequent antagonisms. Prior to the early twentieth century independent teamsters were able to band together occasionally to press for shared demands but generally these efforts were short-lived.
This memorial was referred to the council's Committee on Judiciary. After delaying consideration until after the spring city elections had taken place, the Judiciary Committee voted to place the memorial on file. The full council concurred in this on May 8.
Points to Consider
What did the teamsters propose in their memorial?
What was the stated purpose of the Chicago Teamsters Union No. 1? Which was the most important part?
How was it implied by the union's leadership that its 3,750 members would remember the council's action on this memorial?
Had you been a Chicago alderman in 1893, how would you have responded to this memorial? Why?