100th Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre – May 18, 2014

Published January 2014

June 3, 2013 – The 100th Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre is upon us. The strike started on September 23, 1913, and the massacre occurred on April 20, 1914, in southern Colorado. The United Mine Workers of America is planning a series of events to commemorate this tragedy. Many academic and labor historian groups have been planning events and speaking engagements on Ludlow.
The UMWA has moved its 2013 Annual Memorial Service, normally held in June, to Sunday, September 22. 2013, to commemorate the start of the strike. The 2014 event will be held the weekend of May 18, 2014, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Massacre. We considered April 20, 2014, the date of the tragedy, but that is Easter Sunday. We are planning a prayer vigil that day but the remembrance will be held May 18th. We are also planning a re-enactment of the Mother Jones March in Trinidad in February 2014. The date and time will be announced at a later time.
I am writing to you today not only to invite you to attend these functions, but to ask how Organized Labor can commemorate this event. Men, women and children died in the Ludlow struggle for economic justice. It’s my opinion that the greatest tribute we can give them is use the 100th Anniversary to further their cause.
The UMWA was the union that was involved in this organizing effort but history shows that the Denver Area Labor Federation was also heavily involved in their support of these workers. Even though the strike was unsuccessful, it did set the table for the passage of the Wagner Act of the 1930’s, which provides workers the right to organize and thus began the middle class. It also provided a future President of the UMWA, John L. Lewis, the necessary tools and the ability to create the Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.) and its affiliated labor unions during the great Industrial Revolution.
Many of the issues that occurred at the time of the Ludlow Massacre are some of the same issues that we face today. Gone are the issues of the company towns, company guards, scrip (coal company money) and tent colonies. However, the attack on collective bargaining rights and the right to organize, economic injustice, immigration, worker health and safety, corporate, political, and media attacks on labor unions, 8-hour work days, and numerous other issues, face all of us today. The Ludlow workers took on the battle one hundred years ago, and I would ask you to honor them by making the centennial events of the strike and massacre our opportunity to redefine the labor movement and to take our rightful place in today’s society. Even today there are attempts to re-write history to make the public think that the coal companies were the victims in the tragedy. But in order to understand the events of April 20, 1914, you must first understand the events preceding the massacre, such as the living and working conditions the workers endured, not to mention the company’s unwillingness to deal with the issues. We understand that labor unions protected the workers and their rights on the job, and that this is still the case today. In fact, the greatest cause of picket line violence during the Ludlow Strike and still today — is replacement workers. The United States of America may be the only country of the industrialized nations where replacement workers are still legal. Once the public is able to put both of these issues together they will truly understand Ludlow.
I feel it is up to all of us who enjoy collective bargaining rights, to use any and every opportunity to speak out, to engage our political friends, as well as our enemies, and when able, to participate in public events and to be a part of any debate about Ludlow and/or any of the issues that still face us today.
Ludlow was a United Mine Workers of America event and we plan on offering a tribute to these fallen miners, their wives, and children. I ask each of you and your organizations to please provide us input on how we can make any event better and how we can better engage the public in all issues affecting workers. Please contact us with your thoughts and any events you may plan in conjunction with this anniversary. I am asking all of you to honor them the best we can by furthering their cause of worker justice any way we can.
We are preparing a Ludlow Centennial Commission website, which will feature a calendar of events and other pertinent information. There is a Facebook page called “Ludlow Centennial Commemoration”. In closing, thank you for your time and allowing me to pass on this information. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I look forward to hearing from you.
Contact: Bob Butero, Director Region IV, United Mine Workers of America
Area Code (303) 425-7110
Email address: region4@umwa.org