Saturday, April 19, 2014

Remember Ludlow!

If you get to go home from work after eight hours in one day; if you get to spend a weekend without going to your job; if your workplace is free of lethal dangers: don't thank your employer.

Thank the union members who literally died - shot, smothered and burned to death by company goons and local militias - to secure the workplace rights we all take so for granted.

Thai Jones as The Nation:

The tents huddled together on the high prairie. For seven months, they had borne deluge, frost and blizzard. In that time, the occupants—more than 1,000 striking coal miners and their families—had also endured the fear and fact of violence. On April 20, 1914, the sun rose at 5:20 am. It was the 209th daybreak over the tent colony at Ludlow, Colorado. And it was also the last.

The next twenty-four hours, in which roughly a score of people were killed, would be the bloodiest in the entire sanguinary history of the American labor movement. Immortalized as the Ludlow Massacre, its causes and ramifications have been discussed, disputed and decried for a century. As with the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 or the Haymarket Riot of 1886, it generated martyrs, villains, monuments, social legislation and mass movements.

For years, the Ludlow Massacre was a touchstone of our radical tradition. Its legacy was fashioned and sustained by some of the brightest publicists of the left, including John Reed, “Mother” Bloor, Upton Sinclair, Woody Guthrie, George McGovern and Howard Zinn. “It was a watershed event,” wrote novelist and historian Wallace Stegner. Ludlow, he thought, had touched “the conscience of the nation, and if it did not make raw corporate gun-law impossible, it gave it a bad name. At the very least, it made corporations more careful.”

The union movement drew enough strength from the events at Ludlow—as well as its defeats and victories on untold shop floors across the country—to force the implementation of new forms of welfare support and working-class power. In the 1930s and ’60s, the battle cry “Remember Ludlow!” inspired advocates for labor and civil rights. By the 1970s, however, the fatalities in those coalfields felt like wounds from a distant past, and the massacre fell from political discourse and education curriculums.

And then the world changed back. The gains of labor began to be undone, and the factors that defined the conflict in Colorado are with us once again: class warfare, corporate monopoly, environmental ruin, the demand for workers’ justice, the influence of media and public opinion. One hundred years on, the Ludlow Massacre is a starkly contemporary tragedy.
Read the whole thing, and ask yourself if WalMart of the Koch Brothers or Citibank or Bain Capital would hesitate for a split second today to order a massacre of striking workers.

Then tell the story to everyone you know.
The export of manufacturing jobs abroad has produced an undoing of memory. Today, the nation is divided by the kind of severe income disparities last seen during the Gilded Age, and yet the traditions of labor militancy and resistance to corporate ferocity that flowered in the era of heavy industry have been largely forgotten by both workers and employers. But Ludlow is the terminus of capitalism’s regressive path. If our future is shaped by the further degradation of labor rights, there can only be more massacres and new monuments.

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