August 1, Mo and I took a day trip to southern Colorado to see the town where his mother had been born and lived in her early years. On our way back, we took the opportunity to see a little ghost town and to view a bit of Americana- albeit the progressive and lesser known Americana.
In a little town alongside the mighty Rockies, there once stood a town called Ludlow, Colorado and across the road from the town was a mining camp. The workers who came to work the mine were European and Mexican immigrants who came to America just as immigrants do today, although at that time perhaps the myth was more widely held that America was "A land of milk and honey, where the streets were paved with gold."
What they found instead were company-owned towns where they worked 12-14 hour days. They were paid in company owned "scrips", that were worth pennies on the dollar and the fatality rates were ten times the national average. As a result of the terrible working conditions and low wages, they began a strike on September 23, 1913.
When they began the strike the companies evicted them from their homes and refused to allow them to pack their belongings. They were quickly aided by the United Mine Workers of America who gave them tents that allowed them to survive on of the worst winters in Colorado history. The strike was plagued with violence from the beginning but on the April 20 things came to a head.
Just after having celebrated the Greek Orthodox Easter, while celebrators were still sleeping in, an explosion triggered a round of gunfire between the miners and the state militia which had been called out to "keep the peace." In the late afternoon a train interfered with the gunfire long enough for some of the women and children to escape. At dusk someone from the militia (it's not clear who) entered the camp and set fire to the tents which resulted in 21 deaths- which included 2 women and 11 children.
I am no apologist for the things that unions have done wrong in their thirst for power in the political arena. But on this Labor Day, perhaps it is a good day to remember the Ludlow Massacre, for those who died there in an attempt to bring better working conditions to ALL Americans, not just immigrant workers. Because of them we have:
The 8 hour work day
The 40 hour work week
Paid Holidays and vacations
Paid sick days
Workplace health and safety laws
This is what America is all about folks and what makes us so great! We have this as our heritage-- or did once. Will we again? I sincerely hope so!!!