April 20, 1914 National Guards opened fire on a mining camp during a strike in Ludlow, Colorado, killing five miners, two women, and twelve children.
The Ludlow Massacre occurred in Colorado. National Guards opened fire on a mining camp during a strike in Ludlow, Colorado, killing five miners, two women, and twelve children. By the end of the strike, more than 75 people had been killed. The strike involved 10,000 members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW), 1,200 of whom had been living in the Ludlow tent colony. Many of the “Guards” were actually goons and vigilantes hired by the Ludlow Mine Field owner, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who were temporarily sworn into the State Militia for the occasion. During the assault, they opened fire on strikers and their families with machine guns and set fire to the camp.
Mining was (and still is) a dangerous job. At the time, Colorado miners were dying on the job at a rate of more than 7 deaths per 1,000 employees. The working conditions were not only unsafe, but terribly unfair, too. Workers were paid by the ton for coal that they extracted but were unpaid for so-called “dead work” like shoring up unstable roofs and tunnels. This system encouraged miners to risk their lives by ignoring safety precautions and preparations so that they would have more time to extract and deliver coal. Miners also lived in “company towns” where the boss not only owned their housing and the stores that supplied their food and clothing but charged inflated prices for these services. Furthermore, the workers were paid in “scrip”, a currency that was valid only in the company towns. So even if workers had a way to get to another store, they had no money to purchase anything. Therefore, much of what the miners earned went back into the pockets of their bosses.