July 3, 2021 - On June 27, the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) hosted a commemoration of the Ludlow Massacre of 1914 at the Ludlow Monument near Trinidad, Colorado. The commemoration was attended by approximately 75 trade unionists and community members to solemnly remember a violent period in Colorado labor history.
The Ludlow Massacre, one of the most explosive periods in U.S. labor history, occurred in 1914 when the Colorado National Guard and company thugs burned striking miners’ tents and shot people in the camp, killing 13 children, two mothers and a number of miners. The massacre marked the climax of a conflict known as the Colorado Coalfield War, a period in 1913 and 1914 in which thousands of miners went on strike against the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company. The miners wanted an eight-hour work day, enforcement of Colorado mining safety laws, and, most importantly, union recognition.
Presentation of Los Mineros Unity Letter at the 2021 Ludlow Massacre Memorial Service. United Mineworkers International Vice President, Mike Dalpiaz; Dr. Ericka Wills; and United Steelworkers District 12 Director, Gaylan Prescott.
Photo: Josh Young
In response to the Ludlow Massacre, the United Mine Workers of America armed around 1000 miners, who shut down more than six mines. For the next ten days, miners were in charge and shot anybody who dared to oppose them with weapons. The Colorado Coalfield War left around 50 coal company thugs and state militiamen dead. Federal troops were called in.
“We coal miners are not bashful; sometimes you have to march, sometimes you have to use a gun, you do what you have to do to survive,” said UMWA District 22 Vice President Michael Dalpiaz, highlighting the determination of the miners at Ludlow. Dalpiaz went on to trace the militant history of the UMWA, from the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia to the Peabody Coal Strike of 1993, stressing the need for militant class-struggle unionism. “If you’re gonna have a cause, you better be ready to fight, because if you don’t fight you won’t get anything,” said Dalpiaz proudly.
Another speaker, Dr. Ericka Wills of the University of Colorado, connected the struggle of the miners at Ludlow to the 2020 uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd. “When you look at the Chicano Movement or the African American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s or other pivotal periods in U.S. history, you see that the history of labor rights, civil rights, gender rights are all inextricably intertwined,” Wills stated.
Wills also presented a letter of solidarity from the Mexican Miners’ union Los Mineros to the UMWA and the United Steel Workers. “For decades, Los Mineros and the United Steelworkers in the U.S. have worked to represent laborers on both sides of the border. USW and Los Mineros have come together in solidarity and education on both sides of the border,” Wills proclaimed, showcasing the importance of international worker solidarity.
The commemoration ended with a prayer and a call to action to support striking UMWA miners at Warrior Met coal in Alabama, who have been on strike since April 1. Dalpiaz concluded the event by stressing the importance of remembering the martyrs of Ludlow, “This is hallowed ground. This is sacred ground for our union, and we will never, ever forget.”