Companies and Unions

American industrialization was running full steam by the early 1900's, and the growth of big companies largely went unbridled. Industrialists like J.D. Rockefeller, Jr. saw capitalism as the key to the American dream and the unionization movement as a socialist threat. Before the Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-1914, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) refused to recognize labor unions and fired miners suspected of union activities.   

Mining was dangerous work in the early 1900s. Explosions, rock falls, runaway mine cars, and the malfunctioning of heavy machinery threatened miners daily. The Mine Safety and Health Administration, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, asserts that the fatality rates in Colorado coal mines were twice that of the national average.  At the turn of the century, the coal companies and their allies attributed these high fatality rates to the region’s climate and geology.  However, a lack of safety standards and mine regulations greatly increased the danger in the mines.  


On September 23, 1913, the labor union, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) organized a strike on the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. In addition to establishing the strikers’ list of demands, union organizers helped set up 150 tents at Ludlow for the 1,200 strikers and their families evicted from coal company towns.

UMWA Rally

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