Union-busting In The Past

Since unions and collective bargaining rights are in the news lately, here’s an event of interest for students of economic history. ┬áNinety-seven years ago, union-busting meant murdering. Twenty-five people were shot and killed in Colorado on orders of the Governor of Colorado and John D. Rockefeller.

The Ludlow (Colorado) coal strike massacre (from About.com):

In the decades before World War I, industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller had become millionaires; by the early years of the 20th century labor unrest blossomed in the United States, particularly in the coal mine industry. Strikes grew into riots occurring throughout the US, and then into full scale battles, the most famous of which was in 1914, the Ludlow Coal Massacre, when Colorado National Guard opened fire on a tent city of striking miners and their families in Ludlow Colorado.

Basic Facts

On April 20, 1914, Colorado National Guardsmen attacked a tent colony of 1,200 striking miners at Ludlow, Colorado, looting and burning the colony. Twenty-five people were killed. This was the worst of many such skirmishes between the government and the miners in Coal Field War of 1914, which lasted for seven months.

Battle Statistics

The battle lasted 14 hours and included a machine gun and 200 armed militia; the tent city was destroyed. Of the 25 people killed, three were militia men, twelve were children, and one was an uninvolved passerby. The strikers were mostly Greek, Italian, Slav, and Mexican workers; the militia were sent by the Governor of Colorado and ultimately by John D. Rockefeller, owner of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.