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PDF Online In , a group of miners drew up 7 demands and presented them to the mine owners. These demands consisted of: Union recognition, a raise in wages, an eight-hour work day which was already a state law but was generally ignored , hourly pay for dead work work that didn't directly produce coal , a check weigh-man at all mines to be elected without interference from company officials , the right to trade in any store they chose, the right to select their own living places and doctors, the enforcement of Colorado mining laws and the abolition of the guard system that had run the camps for so many years.
The strike of about 9, coal miners in southern Colorado began on September 23, When workers resided in company-owned housing, work stoppages brought mass evictions. Evicted strikers often were forced into makeshift accommodations. When the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company and other southern Colorado mine operators drove coal miners from their homes in September , the miners set up a sizable tent colony near the town of Ludlow.
Conditions in the coal mining district were such that violence was inevitable. These mercenary adventurers had been employed and armed by the coal companies prior to the strike, and had been given deputy sheriffs' commissions by the sheriffs of Las Animas and Huerfano counties, who were political partners and agents of the coal companies.
Lippiatt was shot down on a public street in Trinidad before the strike began.
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Union officials frankly admitted the purchase of arms and have quoted that section of the Constitution of Colorado which reads: The strikers had established tent colonies at strategic positions near the mouths of the canyons in which the mines were situated, so that strike breakers going from the railroad stations to the mines were forced to pass near them. The history of strikes shows that workmen on strike feel that they have a property interest in their jobs, and that other workmen who take their places and thus aid their employers to defeat the strike are fit subjects for abuse, ridicule, and violence.
While the strikers and mine guards were waging guerrilla warfare on October 26 and 27, Governor Ammons of Denver was making a last effort to bring about a settlement. When his efforts failed he issued orders to Adjutant General Chase, calling out the militia and ordering General Chase to occupy the strike district. The units sent into the field included cavalry, infantry and artillery. Up to this time and for several weeks thereafter Governor Ammons had devoted all his efforts to bringing about a settlement on a basis that would be fair to all concerned.
He issued orders that the troops be impartial in their handling of the situation and that no present or former coal company guards and gunmen were to be enlisted for service during this crisis. Governor Ammons accepted the view that to permit the use of the troops in escorting strikebreakers would be to turn them over to one of the parties to the conflict.
When the Federal troops entered the field seven months later similar orders were issued to them by the Secretary of War. Soon after the troops entered the field many business men and salaried employees who had steady positions at home asked to be relieved from duty. Their places were taken by men recruited in the strike zone, at least some of whom had been imported to serve as mine guards.
In their efforts to coerce the Governor, the operators were aided by a peculiar situation produced by the refusal of State Auditor Kenehan to issue certificates of indebtedness to pay the salaries and expenses of the State troops.
Bankers in Denver, Ludlow and Colorado Springs had acceded to a request of the Governor that they advance money for the militia. There were constant threats that the money would not be paid. Governor Ammons rescinded his order to the militia, prohibiting the importation of strikebreakers, after all efforts to obtain a settlement had failed, on November 27, Strikers were arrested without charge on mere suspicion and were kept incommunicado; they were refused the visits of friends, the right to consult with counsel or to do anything else in the way of taking charge of and looking after their own interest and welfare, such as was usually granted to the commonest of criminals.
Mother Jones, a general organizer for the United Mine Workers, more than eighty years of age, was arrested and put in jail and kept absolutely incommunicado for several months. All of that was done under a decision of the Supreme Court of the State that arose out of the Cripple Creek strike, called the Moyer case, the substance of which decision was that, whether martial law had been proclaimed or not, wherever state troops were for the purpose of restoring peace or preserving the peace, that there all civil law might be suspended at the will of the commanding officer and the military law take its place.
This was a decision that, up to that time, had no precedent except in the Philippine Islands. Troops were quartered in Company buildings and furnished with supplies by Company stores in return for these certificates. By the Spring of , the cost of keeping the National Guard in place was bankrupting the state. Governor Ammons withdrew all but two of the troops from the field, these two troops being composed mostly of company men mine guards and gunmen , and both of these troops were stationed near Ludlow.
By April the Colorado National Guard no longer offered even a pretense of fairness or impartiality, and its units in the field had degenerated into a force of professional gunmen and adventurers who were economically dependent oa and subservient to the will of the coal operators.
This force was dominated by an officer whose intense hatred for the strikers had been demonstrated, and who did not lack the courage and the belligerent spirit required to provoke hostilities. Continual attacks on the colony by private guards and local and state authorities culminated on April 20, Shortly after dawn, Colorado National Guard troops opened fire on a tent colony of 1, striking coal miners at Ludlow, Colorado.
Twenty four hours later the camp was in ruins. That day's onslaught of gunfire and arson, the Ludlow Massacre, claimed 24 lives, including those of 2 women and 11 children who succumbed to smoke suffocation. Along with their mothers, the children had hidden in shallow pits dug below the tents in order to be safe from flying bullets.
The event outraged the nation, for a short while. The Ludlow Massacre precipitated an armed and open rebellion against the authority of the State as represented by the militia. This rebellion constituted perhaps one of the nearest approaches to civil war and revolution ever known in this country in connection with an industrial conflict. Strikers in Southern Colorado armed themselves and swarmed over the hills, bent on avenging the death of their Ludlow comrades.
Two days after the Ludlow tragedy, on Wednesday, April 22, the responsible leaders of organized labor in Colorado telegraphed to President Wilson, notifying him that they had sent an appeal to every labor organization in Colorado urging them to gather arms and ammunition and organize themselves into companies. By Wednesday, April 22, two days after the Ludlow killings, armed and enraged strikers were in possession of the field from Rouse, twelve miles south of Walsenburg, to Hastings and Delagua, southwest of Ludlow. Within this territory of eighteen miles north and south by four or five miles east and west were situated many mines manned by superintendents, foremen, mine guards and strikebreakers.
Inflamed by what they considered the wanton slaughter of their women, children and comrades, the miners attacked mine after mine, driving off or killing the guards and setting fire to the buildings. During the ten days of fighting at least fifty persons had lost their lives, including the twenty-one killed at Ludlow. From to 1, armed strikers had been in absolute control of large areas of territory, and had waged open warfare against mine guards, militia and mine employees.
Responsible union officials planned the movements of their men, set about collecting and distributing arms and ammunition, and openly justified their acts. Each side reported its casualties after each skirmish and made claims as to the number of men killed and wounded on the opposing side.
Newspapers, friendly to one side or the other, charged with apparent satisfaction that the losses of the other side had been greater than were admitted.