Topic category: Local Politics & Government
What Really Happened In Ludlow And That The Unions Won’t Tell You
Well, as is typical every Labor Day holiday, and when I point out sad but true things about organized labor, I get hit with the emails howling in protest over my “assault” on the “working class”. Of course by “working class” these emailers really mean union workers because, as we all know, no one else, such as myself, works here in America right? Oh please, spare me.
As I pointed out in a post on my blog the day after Labor Day, it is actually labor unions who have conducted, as Jimmy Hoffa Jr. put it, “a war on workers” over the years. That sent the union hacks into even more conniptions and made the vitriol I received in my inbox even greater. In a display of what can only be described as union talking point memos being distributed, several who wrote to me derisively referred to the Ludlow Massacre of 1914, as a reason why unions must exist and be supported.
Now, I know about the Ludlow Massacre. Yes, believe it or not. I have studied it and even at times started to write articles in the past incorporating the events in Colorado on April 20th of 1914 although each of those projects have been scrapped in favor of others. But since apparently the labor unions are out there teaching their members about Ludlow, I think it is now time to address what really happened on that fateful day and the days leading up to it. Because I am sure that none of these people who are emailing me citing that event know much, if anything, about it except that some people were killed by cruel, evil capitalists.
Jump into the WABAC Machine with me and Mr. Peabody won’t you? At the turn of the 20th century, the Colorado coal mining industry was in quite a state of boom. And like many jobs in 1914, those who worked in the mines were in constant danger. Coal mining today is still very dangerous. But it was even more so back in the early 1900’s simply because of the technology of the day.
Colorado, at the time, was credited with having quite good oversight of the mining industry through regulation. However, enforcement was indeed sporadic. The reasons for this were several fold. First of all, it was the early 1900’s and people did not get around as easily as they do today. Plus the means of communication were quite poor. Another problem was that yes, indeed mine officials bribed inspectors from time to time. However let us look at the other side of the coin too. Most of the laws regulating the mining industry were pushed by the pro-labor movement. Even though they passed through legislatures, government saw that to enforce some of these laws would cause several mines to become insolvent and close. This would thus cause a loss of the jobs the unions had sought to protect. So what you had was government caught between interests and government often willingly, without the need of bribes, looked the other way as laws were not followed.
But the dangers faced by those who worked in the mines was not all the fault of the mine operators and the lax regulators. In fact the miners, called colliers, themselves took a great many risks and themselves violated safety regulations willingly in an attempt to get more tonnage out of the mine. They did this because they were paid by the ton of coal produced. But you will rarely ever hear these miners being called evil, greedy capitalists. In fact I doubt that many people even know that this was what was really going on in the mines in their rush to vilify the mine owners.
Anyway, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in 1913 made a series of demands on mining operators in the State, not all of which were unreasonable. But, as is often the case, there was overreach within the whole package of demands. When the deal was rejected, the UMWA sent its members on strike and they retreated to camps they had set up on private property.
Now, to hear the unions tell it, the next thing that happened was that their members were massacred at Ludlow. But that is not the next thing that happened.
After the UMWA went on strike, the mines found plenty of workers willing to fill their now empty shoes. The union miners of course hated this. Feeling that they were entitled to the jobs that these “scabs” were now taking, the miners resorted to violence. Out of work UMWA members harassed and even assaulted replacement workers. The violence included several deaths. The Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency was hired to protect the non-union workers and, admittedly, harass the strikers back.
Things started to get ugly as the violence continued on both sides. But usually all you hear about through the specially crafted filter of liberal, revisionist history is how the Baldwin-Felts agency fired into the compound at Ludlow, patrolled the perimeter in the machine gun equipped “Death Special” and even killed several striking workers. However, the union kept up its own violence as well. Do not be fooled into thinking otherwise because to do so would cause you to loose sight of the whole picture.
As the situation escalated, it was on October 28th that the governor of Colorado called in the National Guard and things settled down. There were still clashes however and everything was not a happy lovefest. After all, the union workers were still out of work. On March 10, 1914 the body of a “scab” was found murdered. Reports vary as to what happened. The National Guard’s commander, Adjutant-General John Chase, determined the act to be the work of the UMWA and revenge for this “scab” taking a union job. Others, you know who they are, have said that the death was a ruse and a set up to give the National Guard the authority to do what they did next.
What they did next was order a UMWA tent colony at Forbes, Colorado destroyed and the inhabitants dispersed. Shortly thereafter, due to a lack of funding, the Colorado National Guard was forced to be recalled. But two units were left in place and the mining companies financed a militia to help protect their own interests.
Then everything fell apart on April 20th.
It was that morning when Guardsmen arrived at the camp in Ludlow seeking a man, who they claimed the striking union workers were holding against his will, be released. During the negotiations that ensued, and in a continuation of the tensions that had been going on since the strike had been called, the militia installed a machine gun on a nearby ridge. They were half a mile from the Ludlow Camp and it is important to understand that they did not fire on the camp. It is also however important to understand that although they did not fire on the camp that the union workers at Ludlow saw the installation of the weapon as a threat.
At that time the members of the camp escalated the situation. The union workers, armed, attempted to engage the militia by flanking them. It was at this time that the firefight which would become known as the “Ludlow Massacre” broke out and the machine gun was turned on to the striking workers.
At the end of the day, a freight train stopped on the tracks between the camp and the militia who were now routing the union workers. The workers fled and the camp was set ablaze and sacked. It was only afterwards that it was discovered that several women and children, hiding in pits dug under the tents which were used to avoid the gun fire, were tragically burned to death.
Later Louis Tikas, the camp’s leader, was found shot in the back well after the battle had ended.
But wait, as they say, there is more! In response to all this, the UMWA armed the striking workers and sent about 1,000 of its members out with the specific intention of killing guards at several mines. They were successful in that mission.
It was only when President Wilson sent Federal troops to the region that the situation was finally defused. These troops disarmed both sides.
And the ending to this sordid tale? Well. In December of 1914 the UMWA ran out of dough and called off the strike. Their demands were not met and many of the workers lost their jobs anyway because the replacement workers had taken them.
Twenty-two Colorado Guardsmen were court-martialed for their actions during the strike. Only one was found guilty and that was a Lieutenant named Linderfelt for cracking Louis Tikas over the head with his rifle butt prior to him being found dead. But in addition, over 300 strikers were indicted for murder. Although just one man was ever convicted and even he had his sentence overturned later on, this just goes to show you how much violence there was on the union side of this event. There were a lot of deaths that went unpunished as the whole situation was swept mostly under the rug. Despite plenty of witnesses to the atrocities committed on both sides,
Whew! And that is the story, the real story, of what happened in Ludlow, Colorado. It is a story, however, that unions do not want told because it shows how they themselves resort to violence and acted miserably during the entire affair as well. I simply cannot let union members proclaim Ludlow as innocent “working people” getting the shaft when the unions themselves tried to prevent “working people” from taking jobs the union believed to be theirs by some imaginary right and did so through violence. That would be a disservice to history.
J. J. Jackson
Biography - J. J. Jackson
J.J. Jackson is a libertarian conservative author from Pittsburgh, PA who has been writing and promoting individual liberty since 1993 and is President of Land of the Free Studios, Inc. He is the Pittsburgh Conservative Examiner for Examiner.com. He is also the owner of The Right Things - Conservative T-shirts & Gifts http://www.cafepress.com/rightthings. His weekly commentary along with exclusives not available anywhere else can be found at http://www.libertyreborn.com