N.Y. congresswoman introduces resolution honoring Chinese railroad workers

Chinese laborers made up a majority of the Central Pacific workforce that built out the transcontinental railroad east from California.
Chinese laborers working on the Central Pacific Railroad.
Chinese laborers working on the Central Pacific Railroad.Alfred A. Hart Photograph Collection / Courtesy of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University

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By Chris Fuchs

A New York lawmaker has introduced a resolution in Congress to recognize the almost 12,000 Chinese workers who helped build America’s transcontinental railroad during the 19th century.

“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,” U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., said in a statement.

The resolution acknowledges the risks Chinese laborers faced between 1865 and 1869 as they toiled in dangerous conditions on the monumental engineering project, all while dealing with discrimination and unequal pay and treatment.

It also honors the workers who died while laboring in the Sierra Nevada.

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Meng urged her colleagues in the House of Representatives to support the resolution.

“Honoring the sacrifices they made for our nation is long overdue,” she said.

Chinese laborers made up a majority of the Central Pacific workforce that built out the transcontinental railroad east from California. The rails they laid eventually met track set down by the Union Pacific, which worked westward.

On May 10, 1869, the golden spike was hammered in at Promontory, Utah.

Meng, along with 34 other members of Congress, also sent a letter in February to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to recommend issuing a commemorative postage stamp to honor the Chinese railroad workers. The committee recommends and evaluates stamp proposals on behalf of the postmaster general.

A statement from Meng’s office said the congresswoman has worked since 2014 toward creating a stamp for the 150th anniversary of the railroad’s completion.

The United States Postal Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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