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Pueblo museum excises Mine Workers Union from Ludlow Massacre exhibit!

PUEBLO, COLORADO- 2014 marks one hundred years since the Ludlow Massacre of 1914. A variety of commemorations are planned before the formal anniversary on April 20. I attended one such event on Wednesday, a lecture by a CSU professor to footnote the "Children of Ludlow" exhibit at El Pueblo History Museum. I'm always excitied when attention is paid to Ludlow, a subject regularly left out of American schoolbooks, but I was disappointed to find key elements of labor history excised from the museum's narrative. Literally. The United Mine Workers of America, the organization central to the strike, which supplied the tent city, and which even today maintains the memorial site, was mentioned only once, IN FINE PRINT! The Ludlow miners voted to strike because the mining companies refused to recognize the UMWA. Unmentioned. The horrors of the atrocity were not tempered, in their explicitness perhaps we think them enough, but there was also the apologist suggestion that some culpability belonged to the miners. I questioned one curator who admitted they were at pains to keep the story "balanced" and that the squeakiest wheel thus far has been the National Guard. Apparently the Guard is offended that its role will be misconstrued. What balance do they want, I wondered. Had they lost children in the "battlezone" too? Children are at the heart of commemorating Ludlow and at the heart of this preversion of the massacre's memory. Were they recklessly endangered by their parents and union organizers? Were they dragged into a battlezone? The museum seems to suggest as much, highlighting the beligerence of the miners, mischaracterizing the soldiers, and leaving the union actions largely unexplained. First I'd like to declare how I tire of the objective irrelevance which results when academics seek the approval of government technocrats. I am also disturbed by educators who pretend blindness to subtle inferences which shape a political takeaway. To them, "remembering" Ludlow seems sufficient in itself. I can hardly see the point to remembering Ludlow unless we have discerned its lessons. Until we are remembering the LESSONS OF LUDLOW, our educators' self-proclaimed raison d'etre will be self-fulfilling: "history will repeat itself." This Pueblo exhibit suggests no lesson other than the exploitation of tragedy, and leaves me fearful about the Ludlow commemorations to follow. The anti-union, pro-military climate which prevails these hundred years since the massacre will make for a travesty of a remembrance unless someone with a worker's perspective speaks up. NOT BROUGHT TO YOU BY... Let's start with this exhibit, which alas has already escaped critique since September. Its full title, as evidenced in the photo above: "Black Hills Energy presents: Children of Ludlow, Life in a Battlezone, 1913-1914." I'll bet curators thought it a measure of truth and reconciliation that the Ludlow presentation was sponsored by a local extraction industry business. Black Hills Energy trades not in coal but natural gas. In fact they're among the frackers tearing up Southeastern Colorado. I think the irony more likely suggests how the UMWA's starring role was

Mother Jones and the children of Ludlow

APRIL 20 MARKS THE 95TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LUDLOW MASSACRE. From her 1925 autobiography, Mother Jones wrote about the UMWA strike in Ludlow Colorado, over the harsh winter of 1914. From Chapter 21: No one listened. No one cared. The tickers in the offices of 26 Broadway sounded louder than the sobs of women and children. Men in the steam heated luxury of Broadway offices could not feel the stinging cold of Colorado hill-sides where families lived in tents. Then came Ludlow and the nation heard. Little children roasted alive make a front page story. Dying by inches of starvation and exposure does not. On the 19th of April, 1914, machine guns, used on the strikers in the Paint Creek strike, were placed in position above the tent colony of Ludlow. Major Pat Hamrock and Lieutenant K. E. Linderfelt were in charge of the militia, the majority of whom were, company gun-men sworn in as soldiers. Early in the morning soldiers approached the colony with a demand from headquarters that Louis Tikas, leader of the Greeks, surrender two Italians. Tikas demanded a warrant for their arrest. They had none. Tikas refused to surrender them. The soldiers returned to quarters. A signal bomb was fired. Then another. Immediately the machine guns began spraying the flimsy tent colony, the only home the wretched families of the miners had, riddling it with bullets. Like iron rain, bullets' upon men, women and children. The women and children fled to the hills. Others tarried. The men defended their home with their guns. All day long the firing continued. Men fell dead, their faces to the ground. Women dropped. The little Snyder boy was shot through the head, trying to save his kitten. A child carrying water to his dying mother was killed. By five o'clock in the afternoon, the miners had no more food, nor water, nor ammunition. They had to retreat with their wives and little ones into the hills. Louis Tikas was riddled with shots while he tried to lead women and children to safety. They perished with him. Night came. A raw wind blew down the canyons where men, women and children shivered and wept. Then a blaze lighted the sky. The soldiers, drunk with blood and with the liquor they had looted from the saloon, set fire to the tents of Ludlow with oil-soaked torches. The tents, all the poor furnishings, the clothes and bedding of the miners' families burned. Coils of barbed wire were stuffed into the well, the miners' only water supply. After it was over, the wretched people crept back to bury their dead. In a dugout under a burned tent, the charred bodies of eleven little children and two women were found-unrecognizable. Everything lay in ruins. The wires of bed springs writhed on the ground as if they, too, had tried to flee the horror. Oil and fire and guns had robbed men and women and children of their homes and slaughtered tiny babies and defenseless women. Done by order of Lieutenant Linderfelt, a savage,

Mother Jones: You Don’t Need a Vote

After the 1914 Ludlow Massacre and the later capitulation of the UMWA union, Mother Jones, by now 85 years old, toured the US to spread the word about what happened. She wrote in her autobiography, about a meeting in Kansas City: "I told the great audience that packed the hall that when their coal glowed red in their fires, it was the blood of the workers, of men who went down into black holes to dig it, of women who suffered and endured, of little children who had but a brief childhood. 'You are being warmed and made comfortable with human blood' I said. ... 'The miners lost,' I told them, because they had only the constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the end, bayonets always win.'" From The Autobiography of Mother Jones, Chapter 22: YOU DON'T NEED A VOTE TO RAISE HELL. Five hundred women got up a dinner and asked me to speak. Most of the women were crazy about women suffrage. They thought that Kingdom-come would follow the enfranchisement of women. "You must stand for free speech in the streets," I told them. "How can we," piped a woman, "when we haven't a vote?" "I have never had a vote," said I, "and I have raised hell all over this country! You don't need a vote to raise hell! You need convictions and a voice!" Some one meowed, "You're an anti!" "I am not an anti to anything which will bring freedom to my class," said I. "But I am going to be honest with you sincere women who are working for votes for women. The women of Colorado have had the vote for two generations and the working men and women are in slavery. The state is in slavery, vassal to the Colorado Iron and Fuel Company and its subsidiary interests. A man who was present at a meeting of mine owners told me that when the trouble started in the mines, one operator proposed that women be disfranchised because here and there some woman had raised her voice in behalf of the miners. Another operator jumped to his feet and shouted, 'For God's sake! What are you talking about! If it had not been for the women's vote the miners would have beaten us long ago!'" Some of the women gasped with horror. One or two left the room. I told the women I did not believe in women’s rights nor in men's rights but in human rights. "No matter what your fight," I said, "don't be ladylike! God Almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies. I have just fought through sixteen months of bitter warfare in Colorado. I have been up against armed mercenaries but this old woman, without a vote, and with nothing but a hatpin has scared them. "Organized labor should organize its women along industrial lines. Politics is only the servant of industry. The plutocrats have organized their women. They keep them busy with suffrage and prohibition and charity."

Some Colorado labor history

Labor day. It commemorates the likes of Samuel Gompers, Big Bob Haywood and Mother Jones and their efforts to unite working class peoples. They met great resistance from gullible populations of consumers and business owners who weren't going to give anything unless they were forced. Child labor laws, five day work weeks, eight hour days, overtime pay, work breaks, retirement, benefits, sick days, vacation days, we owe all these to the might of collective bargaining. Today's labor organizers are seen more as standing in the way of productivity. We think of union workers as lazy and greedy, corrupt and undeserving. How is it the labor unions have fallen so low in our sentiments? Probably because businesses have public relations budgets which advance the corporate view, and labor unions, well, do not. Was this always so? Actually, yes. The Gold Miner's Strike, 1894 Colorado Springs citizens themselves figured prominently in an early and notorious labor conflict: the Cripple Creek Miner's Strike of 1894. Miners united by the Western Federation of Miners were fighting for the three dollar, eight hour day. This was a high wage at the time, but the gold mining business was a veritable bonanza and mine owners were building huge homes on Wood Avenue, "Millionaire's row." Up on the mountain the miners seized and shut down the mines. From their exclusive hang out, the El Paso Club, the mine owners complained about the evils of socialism and the populist leanings of the governor. When underhanded attempts to dislodge the strikers failed, the mine owners, with the assistance of the Gazette, convinced the population of Colorado Springs to rise up in arms against the miners, lest the miners descend from the mountain and attack them. Twelve hundred men were deputized and led on a march to defeat the seven hundred miners. Luckily the 1,200-strong Colorado Springs volunteer posse was outwitted and the miners achieved their demands. The struggle was long and bitter and makes an amusing story now. We can be happy that the miners prevailed but let us not today be mistaken about which side most of Colorado Springs was on. Breaking the union, 1904 By 1904, miners had lost the eight hour day. The Mine Owner's Association issued work permits only to miners who would renounce their union memberships. As the owners shipped in scab labor to substitute for the union holdouts, the conflict grew bloody. The state militia was called in to close the Victor Record, a newspaper sympathetic to the W. F. M. The union was silenced. On June 6, 1904, a lunatic fighting on the side of the miners, but for motives of his own, blew up a train platform, killing 21 nonunion workers. Though it was not then established who had done it, the W. F. M. was immediately blamed and routed. 225 union miners, a number of whom had families in Cripple Creek, were boarded unto trains and deported from Teller County. One group was sent to the Kansas border, marched across, and abandoned. The other was dropped off in a desolate part

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