Eugene V. Debs was the president of the American Railway Union and a labor organizer. Later, he became the Socialist Party candidate for U.S. president five times between 1900 and 1920. Meanwhile, he gained recognition due to his role in leading the Chicago Pullman Palace Car Company strike. As a politician, he regarded the labor movement as a struggle between classes and called for such social changes as the organization of labor by industry rather than by craft. During their imprisonment, Debs thoroughly investigated socialism, supported its ideas, and founded the Socialist Party of America.
The demands of the labor movement overlapped with the goals of socialists because they were partially focused on the same values such as economic opportunity, normal work conditions, and unity. Meanwhile, the labor defined employers as a new slave power and raised the question of whether meaningful freedom could exist in a situation of extreme economic inequality. Consequently, though the two movements have much in common and seek the same goals, their approaches differ.