The UMWA made its first appearance in the Western States in 1900 with a strike in Gallup, New Mexico. In 1903, the UMWA led a strike in the Colorado coalfields. This strike was successful in the Northern Field, around Louisville and Boulder, but failed in the South. In 1910, the Northern operators refused to renew the contract and the miners struck for the next 3 years. In September 1913, the UMWA, which had been secretly organizing the Southern Field, announced a strike there when the operators would not meet a list of seven demands (Fox 1990; McGovern and Guttridge 1972):
  1. Recognition of the union.
  2. A 10% increase in wages on the tonnage rates. Each miner was paid by the ton of coal he mined, not by the hour
  3. An eight hour work day.
  4. Payment for "dead work." Since miners were only paid for the coal they mined, work such as shoring, timbering, and laying track was not paid work.
  5. The right to elect their own check-weightmen. Miners suspected, generally with good reason, that they were being cheated at the scales which weighed their coal. They wanted a miner to check the scales.
  6. The right to trade in any store, to choose their own boarding places, and choose their own doctors.
  7. Enforcement of Colorado mining laws and abolition of the company guard system.

Striker families

Approximately 90% of the workforce struck, 10-12,000 miners and their families. Those who lived in the camps were evicted, and on September 23rd the striker families hauled their possessions through rain and snow out of the canyons to about a dozen sites rented in advance by the UMWA to house them. The UMWA supplied tents and ovens, and organized the strikers into the tent colonies. The colonies were located at strategic spots covering the entrances to the canyons, in order to intercept strikebreakers. Ludlow, with about 200 tents holding 1,200 miners and their families, was the largest of these colonies (McGovern and Guttridge 1972; Papanikolas 1982). Striker families

Life in Ludlow
The operators reacted quickly, bringing in strikebreakers, and the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency from West Virginia. The operators also initiated a campaign of harassment against the strikers. The harassment took the form of high-powered searchlights playing over the colonies at night, murders, beatings, and the "Death Special," an improvised armored car that would periodically spray selected colonies with machine-gun fire. The purpose of this harassment may have been to goad the strikers into violent action, which would provide a pretext for the Colorado Governor to call out the National Guard, thus shifting a considerable financial burden from the operators to the state. Amid steadily escalating violence in the coaldfields and pressure from the operators, Governor Ammons called out the Guard, which arrived in the coalfields in October 1913.
"The Death Special"


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