110th Ludlow memorial service held at site of massacre

Source: Fight Back! News

June 27, 2024



Denver, CO – On Sunday, June 23, a group of Teamsters from Denver attended the Ludlow, Colorado memorial service in Las Animas County, almost 200 miles south of Denver. Ludlow is the site of the Ludlow Massacre, a horrific 1914 attack by the National Guard and a mine owners’ militia that resulted in approximately 21 deaths. Victims included wives and children of striking miners.

The Ludlow Massacre was the height of action of the 1913-14 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) strike in Colorado, and, as historian Howard Zinn describes, it was “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history.” Tensions were building far before the day of the massacre, however, and these tensions were rooted deeply in the struggle of the coal miners against John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s Colorado Fuel and Iron company.

Miners at the time were demanding better wages, an eight-hour day, less company control, and the right to organize. They also demanded a safer workplace – coal mines at the time were up to ten times as dangerous as other workplaces in the country and Colorado’s fatality rate for miners was double the national average.

Many of the families at Ludlow were European immigrants or local Chicano workers, and there were at least 24 languages spoken at the site. This diverse group was able to maintain solidarity throughout the entirety of the strike. At the memorial service, UMWA President Cecil Roberts spoke on this, noting that in the coal mines, “we are all the same.”

The strike came after a series of mining accidents where dozens of miners were killed. When their basic demands were not met, and they went on strike. At the time, miners were living in company towns outside the mine, but strikers were evicted after the strike was announced. Approximately 200 tents, housing about 1200 miners and their families, were built outside the town in response, and this became the site of the massacre. There were several incidents of violence throughout the strike leading up to the massacre, mostly perpetrated by the company and National Guard.

Mother Jones, notably, was present through the strike and was arrested at least twice in Colorado, serving prison time there. Throughout the strike, according to UMWA President Roberts, machine guns were placed along the camp and occasionally shot into the camp seemingly at random. At times, tents were destroyed through such actions, and injuries and fatalities followed.

The tensions became untenable the day after Orthodox Easter on April 19, 1914. That Sunday was spent in celebration among the miners, and a baseball game was held where even National Guardsmen participated. The day after, however, was bloody and brutal; shots rang out from both sides and company men set part of the camp on fire. Gunfire was exchanged throughout the morning. In an act of solidarity, a train conductor in a passing train stopped on the tracks separating the machine guns from the miners, blocking the bullets. By the end, however, 21 had been killed, many of whom were suffocated by smoke from the fire. After the massacre, miners engaged in armed resistance during the “Ten Days War,” where at least 50 more people died. The strike continued until December and was eventually lost by the miners.

Those who died for justice in the massacre are remembered at the memorial, while the National Guardsmen and company men who murdered them are forgotten. Of the 21 on the plaque at the memorial, 11 were children, ranging from three months old to 11 years. Many who died as a result of the brutal repression from Rockefeller’s men are nameless, forgotten to the history books, yet their example and their determination to fight for their fellow workers needs to be remembered.

The memorial service was not somber; Roberts and UMWA International District 22 Vice President Michael Dalpiaz gave rousing speeches full of righteous anger and statements of solidarity. Dalpiaz states, “We didn’t do it for any reason other than justice for coal miners and working class people.” Roberts notes that Ludlow is not in the history books in schools, but you open any book and “Rockefeller’s name is in there.”

An estimated 15 to 20 unions were represented at the memorial service, and several attendees were descendants of miners who worked at Ludlow. All were there in solidarity with the honorable fight that the Ludlow miners put up that continues to this day. As we are reminded by Mother Jones, “Above all, you must fight!” While many workers today are not living in company towns or tent colonies, all workers share so much with the brave fighters at Ludlow, and to not carry on their struggle is a betrayal of their memory. As one plaque at the memorial says, “We remember the Ludlow martyrs for the courageous stand they took so many years ago on our behalf. We forget their struggle and sacrifice at our peril.”

Ludlow may remain outside the realm of popular history books, but their fight was done for us. Let us continue the struggle, and fight on the behalf of those living 100 and more years from now, just as the Ludlow miners did. Forward with the struggle!


Written By: Fight Back! News Staff