Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ludlow Massacre: 101 years ago

Yesterday marks the centennial+ 1 day of a crime. It was committed by those hired to not only suppress but to fire upon strikers and their families. United Mine Workers opposed the Rockefeller control over Colorado mines with their awful conditions. My father told me stories of his father, born in the aftermath of the Molly Maguires, and how he had dropped out of school around nine or ten, to work as a "breaker boy" picking slate out of the anthracite in Avoca, a company town full of immigrants from Ireland, bent over heaps for a quarter a day.

So, when I learned of this event, I was curious. I had read a dramatization in Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon, but few seem to have remembered this since in our nation; even USA by John Dos Passos gives this event more of an aside, although logically it was as infamous then, a decade or so after, as 9/11 today in the U.S. Layne and I stopped there last October as it was just off the main interstate as we drove north to Colorado. Only a small off-ramp and unassuming brown sign marked the turn. A slow quarter-mile or so led us past a tiny market and crossroads. The sun set as we headed west, to a place beside the railroad tracks. Dark hills behind us, as cattle and horses could be heard in the quiet distance. She took the photo above, crafted of wrought iron, at the door of the simple metal union hall next to the site. This is a haunting place, and indeed a enormous freight train rumbled past as we looked at the stone monument. It marks the site where two women and eleven children died in a fire as they hid in a dugout. National Guardsman set off flames as they killed the main camp leader and some of his fellow miners, as Brandon Weber narrates with period photos in Upworthy.

Many were Greek, so the day had begun with Orthodox Easter festivities. The blazes from kerosene lit up the tents, and more people were trapped in the flames, and then shot down as they tried to flee. Over 18 months of struggle, almost two hundred people died. The union lost, but Congress investigated. Out of this tragedy, at least the start of eight-hour workdays and no child labor began.

No comments: