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The lessons of Ludlow, 100 years later

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  • The lessons of Ludlow, 100 years later

    The 100 year anniversary of the "Ludlow Massacre" is coming up.

    The lessons of Ludlow, 100 years later

    If April 20 is an informal holiday for celebrants of cannabis, members of labor unions observe the day more somberly. That’s especially true this year. One hundred years ago, striking coal miners and their families were killed in what’s now remembered as the Ludlow Massacre. It was the landmark catastrophe in the broader, nearly year-long struggle remembered as “The Great Coalfield War” of Colorado.

    Striking miners back then harbored bitter complaints about company “pluck me” stores, and accused company men of cheating them at weigh stations. Worse, they felt mine managers cared nothing for their safety.

    Death came easily in those underground mines. Rocks fell from underground ceilings, crushing men. Occasionally, methane or the coal dust itself ignited, killing scores or even hundreds of workers. Explosions were especially frequent in Colorado’s dry climate, partly why the state back then had double the national average of coal-mining deaths. Miners who survived these dangers could look forward to a slow death from black-lung disease.

    But it was the miners’ own fault if they weren’t happy; after all, they had voluntarily gone to work. At least, that was the position of John D. Rockefeller Jr., the majority owner in Colorado Fuel and Iron, as well as other mine owners, including John Charles Osgood. That blithe assertion was contradicted in September 1913, however, when 80 percent of the miners in Ludlow went out on strike, vacating their company-owned houses and piling their families’ worldly possessions onto wagons.

    Some 1,100 to 1,200 of the strikers and their families settled in for a long, snowy winter in white tents provided by the United Mine Workers at Ludlow, in southern Colorado. Occasionally, Mother Jones — the famous labor agitator, who was then in her 70s — passed by on a train between public appearances in Trinidad and Walsenburg. Her free speech came with a cost; she received jail terms in both towns. Most public officials sided with the wealthy mine owners.
    More at the link.