Ludlow: April 20th, 2017

Dear Mr. VP,

You don’t like unions.

Here’s one reason solidarity is important.

It’s southern Colorado, 1912. Nationally, coal miners are dying at a rate of 7/1000 employees. Mines explode, mine walls collapse, workers suffocate. Miners are paid by how much coal they bring up, but not paid for doing the work to make their mines safer. They have families to feed, and this piece-work system (which is essentially what it is) drives them to take safety risks.

In 1913, workers are organizing. The United Mine Workers Association brings a list of demands to the mine owners. They want payment for work, not just for coal tonnage. They also want enforcement of Colorado’s mine safety laws. The mine owners reject the demands and the workers strike. Immediately, they are kicked out of their company homes and move to tents built on wooden platforms. 

Violence occurs on both sides for months. By April 1914, there are two National Guard companies stationed in the hills overlooking the tent city. On April 20th, the Guard opens machine gun fire on the tent colony, where a thousand striking men and their wives and children are living. Women and children actually dig pits under the tents to escape the gunfire. Eventually, the Guard torches the camp.

And in a pit they dug to escape gunfire, which kills thirteen people that day, eleven children and two women burn to death. Imagine their horror as they realize they can’t escape the flames. 

Yup. The government, protecting the owning class, sent the Guard, who burned children to death.

But we don’t do that anymore, right? We don’t send government agents to protect corporations and use violent tactics against strikers and protesters. That’s so 1914.

Right.


Thank goodness we’re so enlightened now.

D

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