Working-Class Poverty and the Southern Colorado Coal Strike

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The working class has served as an integral part of our capitalist society; as the building blocks, and producers of the goods that supply and support our country, the working class and working poor have faced many struggles to gain working rights. The histories of labor movements in the United States are often silenced from the mainstream culture; while we take our current union laws for granted, long forgotten are the bloody battles that took place to secure these rights. The ideological issues facing our modern day working class have shown to stem from the same socially constructed ideals that existed during past labor wars, such as the Colorado Coal Strike. The Coal Strike of 1913-1914 culminated in the Ludlow Massacre; this event showed how media coverage played off of cultural stereotypes of the working class and resulted in the raised consciousness among the strikers. The way the strike was presented to the public was shrouded in cultural symbology of poverty, and through these very symbols the strikers formed an identity of solidarity.

The Ludlow Massacre took place during one of the most violent labor struggles in United States history; while the strike ultimately ended after fourteen months it is remembered as a victory for the union, United Mine Workers of America (Walker, p. 67), and as a site of remembrance for the lives lost for the right to unionize. The Southern Colorado Coal fields were a great source for the coal used in railways and was a heavily industrialized area. They acted like self sustained cities, the power the companies had over the miners live was widespread. The most profitable coal operation was owned by the Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, despite the deplorable conditions of the min...

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...oncerning poverty displayed during the Colorado Coal Strike has stayed with United States culture, and shows little signs of leaving. Through this strike solidarity erupted in the working class; by using their clothes to display support for the working class yet simultaneously linking themselves to one another. This type of solidarity has been seamlessly erased from our cultural narrative, through silencing, these battles not only from textbooks, but primarily from perpetuating stereotypes that only prove to divide.

Works Cited

Chicone, S.J. "Respectable Rags: Working-Class Poverty and the 1913-14 Southern Colorado Coal Strike." International Journal of Historical Archaeology. 15.1 (2011): 51-81. Print.

Walker, Mark. "The Ludlow Massacre: Class, Warfare, and Historical Memory in Southern Colorado." Historical Archaeology. 37.3 (2003): 66-80. Print.
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