April 20th marked the 108th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre in which the Colorado National Guard, and private militiamen employed by the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company (CF&I) were unleashed on striking coal miners and their families, killing five striking miners, two women, and twelve children.
The striking members of the United Mine Workers of America had seven demands that were ultimately rejected by the major coal companies and led to a strike in September 1913:
- Recognition of the union as bargaining agent
- Compensation for digging coal at a ton rate based on 2,000 pounds (previous ton rates were of long tons of 2,200 pounds)
- Enforcement of the eight-hour work-day law
- Payment for “dead work” (laying track, timbering, handling impurities, etc.)
- Weight checkmen elected by the workers (to keep company weightmen honest)
- Right to use any store, and to choose their boarding houses and doctors
- Strict enforcement of Colorado’s laws (such as mine safety rules, abolition of scrip), and an end to the company guard system
A pivotal event in the Colorado Coal Wars of 1913-1914, the massacre at the tent colony outside the townsite of Ludlow highlights capital’s capacity to resort to open conflict and reprehensible violence to maintain its position against an organizing laboring class and shows us that unarmed women and children are considered “collateral damage” in the eyes of corporate entities. The events at Ludlow also notably sparked the Ten Day War, where thousands of strikers attacked coal mines in response.
The ghost town of Ludlow and its adjacent tent colony lie just 18 miles northwest of Trinidad, Colorado. Today, UMWA owns and operates a monument, located at the former tent colony site, to the victims of the fires and gunshots on that fateful day.