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California declares May 10 as Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Day

A statue of Chinese Railroad Workers stood in California, the United States to honor their contributions in building the Pacific Railroad in the 1860s. Photo: Loco Steve Flickr

The California state Assembly unanimously passed a resolution to mark May 10 as the California Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Day on Monday, according to the China News Service.
 
The decision was made to honor around 12,000 Chinese railroad workers for their remarkable contribution in building the Pacific Railroad which was completed on May 10, 1869.
 
The construction of the Railroad, also known as the Transcontinental Railroad, linking the west and the east for the first time in America’s history, took six years and stretched for nearly 2,000 miles, connecting the eastern US rail network at Omaha, Nebraska with the Pacific coast at the Oakland Long Wharf on San Francisco Bay, California, reducing cross-country travel times from six months to a single week.
 
“The Assembly recognizes and honors the Chinese railroad workers who labored from 1865 to 1869 to build the Transcontinental Railroad by designating May 10, 2017, and each May 10 thereafter, as California Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Day,” reads a resolution published on the website of the California Legislative Information.
 
“The Transcontinental Railroad was one of the most remarkable engineering feats of the 19th century”, “the Chinese railroad workers were considered indispensable by their foremen and were respected for their work ethic and discipline”, and they have “set a world record by laying 10 miles of railroad track in just one workday,” the resolution wrote.
 
Nearly 1,200 workers died from avalanches, explosions and work accidents while working in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
 
The bill was proposed by Chinese American Assembly member Evan Low, who said that the Chinese Railroad worker’ sacrifice and courage must never be forgotten.
 
Chinese workers at that time accounted for around 80 percent of the workforce of Central Pacific Railroad Company, but they had been given the most difficult and dangerous jobs and were paid lower wages than other railroad workers.
 
The Chinese workers were mostly from Guangdong province and some other cities in south China, and had left their hometowns which were suffering from poverty and social turmoil for jobs in order to support their families.
 
In 2014, the US Department of Labor included the Chinese Railroad workers officially into the Labor Hall of Honor for their courage in organizing in pursuit of fair wages and safe working conditions.
 
The initiators also include four other Assembly members Kansen Chu, Ed Chau, Phil Ting and Al Muratsuchi, among whom the first three are Chinese Americans.

Chinese laborers worked on the Transcontinental Railroad in Nevada in 1868. Photo: AP/Southern Pacific News Bureau


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