Utah miners union fight
prominent at Colorado event
Ten UMWA District 22 locals at
Ludlow massacre commemoration
Militant photos by Tamar Rosenfeld
left: UMWA Region 4 director Bob Butero opens June 5 rededication of monument to miners massacred in 1914 by National Guard and company thugs in Ludlow, Colorado. Seated, left, is UMWA president Cecil Roberts. Right: Some of 500 people who attended; Co-Op miner Raymundo Silva is in foreground.
BY AURORA NIELSEN
AND KATHERINE BENNETT
LUDLOW, ColoradoIn 1914, coal bosses took advantage of immigrant miners, said Bob Butero, director of Region 4 of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Thats how Butero opened the program before a crowd of 500 gathered here June 5 for the rededication of the monument to the Ludlow massacre.
Id be lying if I said that doesnt go on today, he continued. At the Co-Op mine in Huntington, Utah, underground coal miners were making between $5 and $7 an hour and facing unsafe conditions. When they began fighting for something better, the company fired them. In 1914 in Ludlow, miners went on strike for better working conditions and faced Rockefeller family greed.
This years commemoration featured the unveiling of the restored Ludlow monument dedicated to 20 coal miners and their families killed by the Colorado National Guard and coal company thugs on April 20, 1914. The statue of a coal miner, his wife, and child were badly vandalized in May 2003. The UMWA spearheaded an effort for two years to repair the life-size statues.
Mike Dalpiaz, UMWA international vice president from District 22, recognized the different labor groups in attendance and singled out the Co-Op miners present. Dalpiaz noted that 10 UMWA locals from the region were present. He told the crowd he was looking forward to mentioning another local number, that of the Co-Op miners. We will continue to fight until we get the Co-Op miners as a bona fide local of the UMWA. This got loud applause. Many in the crowd were at last years commemoration where another delegation of Co-Op miners were honored guests and told the story of their struggle.
Largest gathering in years
It was the biggest gathering for a Ludlow commemoration event in many years. Many union locals from UMWA District 22 participated, including locals at the McKinley and Black Mesa mines on the Navajo Nation. About half of those present were coal miners, UMWA retirees, and their family members.
Also attending were members the United Food and Commercial Workers, Communication Workers of America, United Transportation Union, United Steelworkers, and other trade unions in Colorado. The Colorado state AFL-CIO sent a bus filled mostly with union members from Denver.
A delegation from Utah included Co-Op miners Bill Estrada, Raymundo Silva, and Alyson Kennedy, as well as Bob Fivecoat, a member of UMWA Local 9958, made up of retired miners. These miners were warmly welcomed at the weekend events. Driving nine hours from Utah, they had arrived on June 4 to attend a Saturday night dinner and dance sponsored by the UMWA. That morning the UMWA held a meeting of its International Executive Board in Trinidad, Colorado. This was the first time the unions top leadership body has met in UMWA District 22, which covers all the unions western locals.
I was very affected by the Ludlow storyhow the company kicked the miners out of their houses and how they had to live in tents, said Co-Op miner Raymundo Silva. I told the people about Co-Op and they told me thats how it was at Ludlow. The company back then didnt care, no respect to the minersjust like Co-Op.
Co-Op miners set up photo display
The Co-Op miners delegation set up a large photo display of their more than 20-month-long battle to win UMWA representation. The display featured photos from the beginning of their fight on Sept. 23, 2003, when 75 miners were fired by C.W. Mining, which owns this mine near Huntington, Utah. The miners turned their firings into a strike that lasted almost 10 months. They set up picket lines and reached out for solidarity from working people throughout the country, and even received support from unions abroad. They spoke before many UMWA locals in District 22in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Wyomingwho were among their strongest backers. As a result of their tenacious fight, in July 2004, the National Labor Relations Board brokered a deal between the company and the union forcing C.W. Mining to offer all of the fired miners their jobs back. In the weeks leading up to a union representation election last December, however, the company fired all of the UMWA supporters from the mine.
We still have not heard from the NLRB on the second firing or the results of the union election, Co-Op miner Bill Estrada told workers and others who came by the Co-Op display. But we are not sitting around waiting, we are picketing again at the mine. On June 3, the day before they left for Ludlow, seven Co-Op miners set up another picket line at the Co-Op mine demanding recognition of the UMWA.
After an announcement by Roy Fernandez, a UMWA organizer from New Mexico, about our arrival at the International Executive Board dinner, many union leaders came by our table to talk about our renewed picketing in front of the mine, Estrada said. We were encouraged to keep up the fight by officers of union locals in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.
Restoration of Ludlow monument
The UMWA originally erected the Ludlow monument in 1918 in memory of the victims of the massacre, many of whom were miners of Italian or Greek origin. In 1913, the miners at Colorado Fuel and Iron company, owned by John D. Rockefeller, struck, demanding union recognition, higher wages, and an eight-hour workday. At the time of their struggle, the fatality rate in Colorado mines was sky high with scores of miners dying every year.
They didnt just die here at Ludlow, said UMWA President Cecil Roberts, the featured speaker at the event. They are martyrs and heroes and they will not be forgotten.
Other speakers included John Griswold, the sculptor who restored the statues in his California studios; Steve Adams, president of the Colorado AFL-CIO; James Green, professor of history and labor studies at the University of Massachusetts; Colorado state representative Buffie Mcfaden; and UMWA secretary treasurer Dan Kane.
The evening before the event, a public program was held at Colorado State University at Pueblo, featuring various groups and individuals from universities, historical societies, and conservatories who came together to help the UMWA restore the Ludlow monument. The more than 70 people who attended that meeting discussed the ongoing struggle to preserve monuments to labor history in the United States and efforts to have the Ludlow site designated as a national historic landmark.
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