Thursday, May 01, 2014

The War is Over

One hundred years ago yesterday the Colorado Coalfield War ended.
Where the war ended, another prickly battle began for workers rights.

Some sixty-six people were killed.
Coal miners in southern Colorado along the Rocky Mountains Front Range between Trinidad and Pueblo, struck against several John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s, Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. coalmines, in September 1913, in an effort to join the United Mine Workers
of America.

Several tent colonies were set up, because strikers were thrown out of the company town.
On April 20, 1914, Easter Sunday. 20 people were killed at Ludlow, Colo. by the Colorado National Guard and embedded private detectives hired by Rockefeller to break the strike. Of the 20 killed, 11 were children and two were women; family members’ of strikers died in a pit dug under a tent, to protect them from gunfire, when the tent was torched.
The site has been enshrined and is known as the “Death Pit.’”

The numbers killed that day vary, even within the United Mine Workers of America.

One by-passer was killed.

Three National Guard and private detectives were also killed.

When word spread to other tent colonies and gun battles raged for ten days.

Federal troops were sent to separate the warring factions.
The strike was broken, but the deadly events became the catalyst for unionism to take hold in America.

It was the practice of the day, of large corporations in providing everything for the workers from: housing, schools, to groceries, to libraries, (containing censored books), to everything they might need through a company store, and even ministers.

However, everything provided was just slightly overpriced, requiring the workers to establish credit, which hooked and trapped the workers in an indebted servitude. Workers were prohibited from acquiring goods from any other source.

An economic concept that some argue continues to exist to this day.

Coal mining was dangerous work and nearly 200 miners through out the country were killed each year.

The number one issue for workers was safety.

The strike failed but a number of things changed with numerous after-effects that have had an impact on our society in many ways, some subtle and others more obvious:

John D. Rockefeller Jr. was called before congress and hit hard in the day’s media.

Rockefeller set up company unions. They could not bargain, but workers were able to meet and talk to mine operator to express their concerns and grievances.

The damaging publicity was so bad Rockefeller hired a public relations firm, Ivy Lee, and created a new field of industrial public relations, which is with us today.

Note the advertising on network newscasts and in particular, Sunday morning talk shows where such industrial giants as Exxon/Mobile, a direct spinoff of Rockefeller Sr's Standard Oil and the third largest company by revenue in the world, MonsantoArcher Midland Daniels, and others.

Lee would claim an overturned stove, not the fires started by the National Guard, caused the deaths in the pit.

Upton Sinclair would call Lee, “Poison Ivy.”

In the early 1930s Lee consulted with a German company, I.G. Farben Industrie and would be accused of having Nazi sympathies, he was brought before Congress, but he died before the question was resolved.

Union activist Mother Jones gained more notoriety
The Colorado miners would join the UMWA, which put up this monument.
Ludlow, Colorado Cola Miners Strikers’ Massacre Centennial was Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014.
Today there are only two coalmines in Colorado and none on the front range, yet there is a manufacturing of other competing sources of energy.


Bubba Muntzer said...

That's a nice treatment of the Ludlow Massacre, an event that continues to have symbolic importance for many people.

Jim Baca said...

Nice memorial essay.

Storm'n Norm'n said...

I previously did not know about the Ludlow Massacare...thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark, I want to compliment you on both the Bank's piece and the walk through history in the mining story. Good Job!

Matt Baca