Labor Day Folklore: The Ludlow Massacre
In September of 1913 over 13,000 coal miners walked off the job; they struck for union recognition, better compensation, the 8-hour day and safer working conditions. They protested the use of company scrip and the actions of company guards who ruled the mining camps like coal-and-iron police. Louis Tikas became a community and strike leader and would later become a martyr for his leadership role in guiding union members. On April 20, 1914 the Colorado state militia and the company guards opened fire with machine guns into the striking miners' tent colony in Ludlow. Twenty-one people were killed, including 2 women and 11 children. This was the infamous Ludlow Massacre.
Tikas was captured by the militia; some say he was trying to negotiate a truce. He was brought before the brutal Lieutenant Linderfelt who smashed him in the head with his Springfield rifle. Tikas' body was later found in an arroyo, with 3 bullets in his back. In retaliation for the massacre at Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and fought the state militia on a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenberg. Over 50 people died in the ensuing armed struggle, causing President Woodrow Wilson to send in federal troops to restore order. The strike ended on December 10, 1914 with some minor concessions made by Colorado Fuel & Iron.
"If asked if he lost the battle? At the end, we will say no. He didn't lose. He might have died, but he died for a cause. And his cause is still alive today! We need people like him to be our guiding light in everything we do." -- Gregory Karahalios, Greek Consul General
"He is indeed a hero in the United Mine Workers. He is a working-class hero. And he is an American hero." -- Cecil Roberts, President, United Mine Workers of America.