Meng Announces Legislation That Aims to Create Postage Stamp in Honor of Chinese Railroad Workers Who Helped Construct America's First Transcontinental Railroad
Nov 6, 2014
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced today that she will introduce legislation next week that aims to create a United States postage stamp in honor of the Chinese railroad workers who helped construct America’s first Transcontinental Railroad from 1865 to 1869.
Approximately 12,000 Chinese immigrant laborers worked under brutal conditions to build the railroad – which connected the nation from coast-to-coast – by laying tracks, breaking through granite and planting explosives that blasted through mountains. The workers are credited with playing an integral role in the growth of America, and being a key part of U.S. history.
“It’s time for our nation to give these railroad workers the recognition they deserve, and issuing a postage stamp that commemorates their work and contributions to our country is an outstanding way to do that,” said Meng. “Despite the dangerous and challenging working conditions they were forced to endure, these immigrant laborers worked tirelessly to help build the United States. The Transcontinental Railroad has long been considered one of the most remarkable engineering feats of the 19th century. It reduced cross-country travel times from six months to a single week. It also helped facilitate domestic commerce, and it contributed greatly to the economic prosperity that occurred in America in the years after it was completed. The story of the railroad workers and the vital role they played in American history must be told, and a stamp would ensure that more Americans know about the blood, sweat and tears they gave to connect the east and west coasts of our country.”
Meng’s measure, a Congressional resolution, calls on the U.S. Postal Service to issue a postage stamp that honors the Chinese railroad workers who helped build America’s first Transcontinental Railroad. It also urges the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to recommend to the U.S. Postmaster General that such a stamp be issued. The Washington, D.C. based committee, which was established in 1957, recommends and evaluates stamp proposals on behalf of the Postmaster General, the chief executive officer of the Postal Service.
Meng plans to introduce the resolution during the week of November 10th, the week that Congress is scheduled to be back in session. Ten Members of Congress have already agreed to cosponsor the measure, and additional Congressmembers are expected to follow suit once the resolution is formally introduced. Committed cosponsors include: Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), Mike Honda (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Gregorio Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).
Once introduced, the measure is expected to be referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the panel with jurisdiction over the Postal Service.
This year marks the 145th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which was finished on May 10, 1869.
This past May, Meng joined U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to induct the railroad workers into the Labor Hall of Honor. The workers were the first Asian-Americans to receive such a tribute since the Hall of Honor was created in 1988. Those who also took part in the event were: U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher Lu; Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Portia Wu; Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Patricia A. Shiu; former Secretary of Commerce and Transportation Norman Mineta; and Director of the National Domestic Worker Alliance Ai-jen Poo.
Among those previously inducted into the Hall were: César Chávez, Helen Keller, Frances Perkins, September 11th rescue workers and the workers of the Memphis sanitation strike.
Last May, President Obama noted in his Presidential Proclamation that May is designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, in part because the Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10, 1869.
The 12,000 Chinese railroad workers who helped construct the railroad were employed by the Central Pacific Railroad Company. They comprised more than 80 percent of the workforce. Nearly 1,200 workers died from the harsh winters and dangerous working conditions which included accidents, avalanches and explosions while working in the rugged terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They also faced prejudice; were paid lower wages than other workers, and later organized for fairer pay and safer working conditions.