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Congresswoman Grace Meng

Representing the 6th District of New York

Meng Introduces Resolution Seeking Congressional Recognition of Chinese Railroad Workers Who Helped Build America’s Transcontinental Railroad

Mar 1, 2019
Press Release
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the railroad’s completion
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced a resolution that seeks the House of Representatives’ recognition of the nearly 12,000 Chinese railroad workers who helped build America’s Transcontinental Railroad from 1865 to 1869. This year––May 10, 2019––will mark the 150th anniversary of the railroad’s completion.
 
Approximately 12,000 Chinese immigrant laborers worked under extremely dangerous and challenging conditions to help construct the railroad, which connected the nation from coast-to-coast. The workers are credited with playing an integral role in the growth of America, and being an important part of U.S. history.
 
“2019 will be an important year in the history of the Transcontinental Railroad,” said Meng. “In May, we will commemorate 150 years since the end of the railroad’s completion, and providing these laborers with the national recognition they deserve would be an outstanding way to commemorate this milestone. Honoring the sacrifices they made for our nation is long overdue. It is time to finally pay tribute to their legacy and contributions to the prosperity of our country and the Asian American community. I am proud to introduce this resolution and l urge all of my colleagues in the House to support it.”
 
Meng’s resolution would recognize the Chinese railroad workers for their contributions to the construction of the railroad and the growth of the United States. It would also honor those workers who lost their lives while working in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In addition, the measure would acknowledge all the risks these laborers faced, while enduring discrimination and unequal pay and treatment, to complete the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.
 
Meng, joined by 34 other Members of Congress including seven U.S. Senators, recently sent a letter to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to recommend the issuance of a commemorative postage stamp in honor of the Chinese railroad workers. The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee recommends and evaluates stamp proposals on behalf of the U.S. Postmaster General.
 
She also highlighted the struggle of the Chinese railroad workers in a recent op-ed she authored during the celebration of Lunar New Year.
 
The nearly 12,000 Chinese railroad workers who helped construct the railroad comprised more than 80 percent of the workforce of the Central Pacific Railroad Company. They were given the most difficult, dangerous jobs, and were paid lower wages than other workers. Nearly 1,200 of them died from the harsh winters and brutal working conditions.
 
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 after being completed.
 
Meng’s resolution has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A copy of the measure can be viewed here.