Colorado Coal Strikes

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COLORADO COAL STRIKES

COLORADO COAL STRIKES of 1903–1904 and 1913–1914 in Trinidad, Colo., were the result of the refusal of mine operators to recognize the right of workers to unionize and to hear demands by the miners for higher pay; more healthful working conditions; and the right to live, trade, and seek medical attention wherever they pleased. The last demand grew out of the maintenance of "closed" camps and towns by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, the Gould-Rockefeller–controlled operating company, where none but company stores were permitted and which only company-approved persons could enter.

The first strike involved ten thousand workers and began on 9 November 1903, following the mine operator's refusal to confer with representatives of the United Mine Workers. Those in the northern field returned to work on 27 November; the other strikers returned to work in June 1904 after the state militia withdrew from the area and without having won any material advantages.

The second strike was in response to the mine operator's open-shop drive led by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. It began on 23 September 1913 and involved a mixed reign of terror and civil war of several months' duration in the area between Walsenburg and Trinidad. The Ludlow massacre of 20 April 1914, in which the state militia killed fourteen men, women, and children, was the most tragic event of the strike. Federal troops entered the area in May 1914 and restored order. Thereafter, strikers returned to work under more satisfactory working conditions. The state enacted legislation to prevent similar occurrences in the future, and the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company adopted a more constructive labor policy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gitelman, Howard M. Legacy of the Ludlow Massacre: A Chapter in American Industrial Relations. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988.

McGovern, George S., and Leonard F. Guttridge. The Great Coalfield War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.

Suggs, George G. Colorado's War on Militant Unionism: James H. Peabody and the Western Federation of Miners. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991. The original edition was published Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1972.

George L.Anderson/c. p.

See alsoCoal Mining and Organized Labor ; Strikes ; United Mine Workers of America ; Western Federation of Miners .