DOL Inducting Chinese Rail Workers into Hall of Fame

The May 9 ceremony in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to include Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Deputy Secretary Christopher Lu, and descendants of the railroad workers.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez is scheduled to participate in a public ceremony May 9 inducting into the DOL Hall of Fame the Chinese railroad workers whose work was crucial to the completion of the nation's first transcontinental railroad in 1869. Deputy Secretary Christopher Lu, and descendants of the railroad workers also will take part in the one-hour ceremony at the Department of Labor headquarters, 200 Constitution Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., starting at 11:30 a.m.

The DOL induction honors thousands of Chinese immigrants who helped to construct Western railroads during the 19th century, including the first U.S. transcontinental railroad.Many online resources are available that chronicle the arrival of the Chinese immigrant laborers and how they were hired to construct several railroads, including the Central Pacific line being extended eastward from Sacramento, Calif. Central Pacific eventually employed more than 12,000 of them and famously had its crews lay 10 miles of track in one day -– April 28, 1869 – 12 days before the Central Pacific line met the Union Pacific line at Promontory Point, Utah, and the "golden spike" was driven to complete the line.

"For this accomplishment, for their courage to organize in pursuit of fair wages and safe working conditions, and for the example they set for millions of Asian immigrants who followed them, the Chinese railroad workers will be inducted into our Hall of Honor," DOL's announcement states.

A Stanford University project's timeline lists key events in the Chinese laborers' work on various Western railroads from 1858 to 1885.

Three years ago, DOL inducted the Memphis sanitation workers who went on strike in 1968. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. supported the strikers and was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968; 12 days later, the strike ended with a settlement that included union recognition and higher wages.

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