This will be a multi-part series showcasing the Industrial Worker coverage of the IWW Colorado Miners Strike and subsequent Columbine Mine Massacre. This will be followed by original reporting on the strike and massacre.
These articles come from the November 5th, 1927 issue of Industrial Worker and were both written by Byron Kitto. Byron Kitto was an IWW organizer and “publicity agent” for the Industrial Worker. He contracted tuberculosis at the Colorado Coal Strike and died of the disease at just 30 years old on March 14th, 1931.
CONFERENCE CALLED! Hoodlums on Horseback Flee as 300 I.W.W. Cars Approach
“OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY,” IS MINE GUARDS SLOGAN AT IDEAL
Three Thousand Pickets Close Mine Where Fifty Armed Guards on Horseback Trampled Girl and Beat up Men and Women
By Byron Kitto
WALSENBURG, COLO., Oct. 30
The Northern delegation of the IWW miners from the Boulder ignite[?] field of the north which swept through Fremont county, closing down mines that have heretofore been immune to organizaton, arrived in Walsenburg at 1:15 pm Friday.
The caravan of 112 automobiles carrying nearly 800 workers was met at the city limits by the Walsenburg, Ludlow and Trinidad fellow workers. A mammoth procession followed through the streets of Walsenburg. The cars had large banners on each side:
Join the IWW and be a man.
An Injury to one is an injury to all.
Miners of Colorado, do not scab on your fellow workers.
These were some of the banners, of which there were many.
As the fellow workers drove through the streets they sang IWW songs. The sidewalks were lined with workers who yelled and hollered their approval. Business virtually stopped. Never before not merely in Colorado but in the history of the United States has there been such a demonstration of class consciousness and class solidarity.
(We wonder what the “law and order” mob of “citizens” who raided the Walsenburg hall and forcibly “deported” organizers out of town a few days previous thought of this demonstration!)
After the procession the local members served sandwiches and coffee to their much traveled and tired Northern fellow workers. During IWW songs were sung, the favorite being “Solidarity Forever.” After a bite to eat the Northern and Southern miners marched out to the football grounds: there is no hall in Walsenburg big enough to hold the 3,000 workers who gathered here to pull the scabs out of the mines. The meeting was a short one. The speaker outlined the situation: he informed the miners of the Northern field where the workers are out 100 percent, that as long as there were scabs in the Southern fields, their clean cut victory was in jeopardy.
Some one yelled, “Let’s get them out!”
“All right,” came the reply, three thousand voices strong.
The meeting adjourned and away they went, over three hundred cars strong, straight for the Ideal mine where the thugs had the previous day clubbed Fellow Workers Childs and trampled Milka Sablich, a young girl, under horses hoofs. The Caravan speeded onto the scab mine at forty miles an hour.
Oh, yes! About the gunmen. The last that was seen of them was “over the hills and far away.” Well, you know the rest: the mine was closed.
We wish to state to the super-Marxians and master tacticians who, when referring to the IWW, shrug their shoulders and with a sardonic grin calmly say, “Oh, well; the IWW is all right; it has done very good work; but, you know, it has served its purpose,” etc., that the IWW is here to stay; that the IWW has the methods and tactics; that the IWW goes there and it gets there!
Will you help?
Conference Called at State House
Walsenburg, Colo., November 1
By Special Wire
Companies desperate, ready to sign up; conference being held at Denver at the State House. Picketing discontinued in order to allow delegates to work unhampered by any technicality. As a whole excellent situation with plenty more trump cards in the sleeves of striking IWW who will carry on this fight until the right to organize is being recognized by the coal barons.
Governor Adams requesting IWW leaders to co-operate with the State in the enforcement of the picket law, which was acceded to by Francezon on the ground that the law never had been violated and proof of it was the acquittal of 10 men against the conviction of two.
Violation of the law committed by the CF & I in trying to evict forcibly striking miners without due process of the law: arrest by the sheriff of Byron Kitto on 5 trumped up charges in order to raise the bail of this Fellow Worker in an exorbitant way. Young girl Wobbly leader Milka Sablich arrested on the step of the Court house in complete disregard of constitution guarantee; intimidation of all kinds by authorities failing to break the solidarity of the workers are decided to fight this battle to the final victory.
MASTERS GROWING DESPERATE IN COLORADO; ONE FIRES BRIDGE TO BLAME IWW, BUT GETS ARRESTED
By Byron C Kitto
WALSENBURG, Colo. Oct 30 — Arrived in Walsenburg Tuesday morning at 3:45 am. On Arriving at the IWW hall we found things humming. In all directions workers were emerging from their homes and making their way to the hall to answer the picket roll call. There were Russians, Slavs, Greeks, Mexicans, Finns and Americans, in fact all nationalities that one would expect to find in a mining settlement. Racial animosities do not enter into the minds of Colorado coal slaves. In all activities such as relief committees, strike committees, picket squadrons and organization work, the various nationalities are all represented. “Workers of the World, unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains; you have a world to gain,” is not a mere slogan with the IWW coal miners. It is a reality.
At 4 am the pickets left in machines for the CF & I mines the Lester and the Ideal, which are the only ones operating in the Walsenburg district. These mines have only a few “loyal” scabs working. Operations in these mines are maintained merely for a bluff, carried on by the intimidation by gunmen. However, by the time this report reaches our press the pickets will have succeeded in pulling these workers out. (See leading article on front page.)
Just think of it, Fellow Workers; of the 46 mines in this district, the stronghold of the CF & L, there are only two mines making an attempt to operate. While writing this article, word comes to the headquarters that CF &I’s largest mine, the Morley, in Las Animas county has been pulled clean. This means that the CF & I has been hit in the solar plexus and is hanging onto the ropes. One or two more good blows from the IWW will have the octopus for the count. (Again see front page leading article.)
The general manager of the Walsen mine, WE Weitsen, made a frantic appeal for the miners to return to work. He sent notice by CF &I gunmen to all workers who were, previous to the strike, employes at the Walsen mine to come to a meeting to be held at 6:30 am on the company’s property. He said, “The company wants to be fair; come back to work, and if you think that you have any grievances let us talk it over; you are now getting hungry, think of your families; the IWW has no money to look after you, and besides it is an unlawful organization.”
These remarks were no sooner concluded than they were met with catcalls and a few raspberries. The feeble attempt of this CF & L tool to serve his master by peddling the old antiquated rot “Not of mutual interest,” “Co-operation,” and all other sugar phrases which have been correctly placed by the IWW under the heading of slavery, had no effect on the miners whatsoever.
The real masters are now getting ready for action. They have tried to get the workers back through the old, old worn out flag waving stunt. The placing of “Old Glory” on the tipples and the announcement from all state executives that the strike is illegal and un-American is laughed at by the strikers; from the viewpoint of the IWW, this is an important factor. It shows that the workers are at least realizing that whenever a strike becomes effective the masters will find some legal technicality to declare it “unlawful.” In other words if the workers were to wait for the lawmakers to declare a strike legal, they would never be able to strike. This of course, refers to successful walkouts, not little groups of workers that go on strike here and there at different time like the AF of L.
Old John D’s gunmen are very versatile in industrial warfare but they are easily outsmarted by our more versatile picketers. Round many of the CF & I mines they have rigged up highly charged electric wires; in many places they were stretched across the public highway. After finding out that electricity could not keep out trained pickets from getting in contact with the workmen who had been afraid to come out, due to the intimidation of the companies gunmen, the CF & I thugs then began to function in their normal capacity, the brutal attack on union workers. This began Monday morning when fellow workers Mrs. Ereno was manhandled by SS Temple, superintendent of the Cameron mine; he grabbed her by the neck and in attempting to throw her to the ground tore her coat in several pieces. As soon as her fellow workes saw this they immediately came to her rescue, but at that time they were unable to avenge the assault because of the fact that double barreled shot guns were levelled at their heads and they were ordered to move down the highway.
The next morning, Tuesday, Governor Adams came down to Walsenburg to “look things over.” While he was out at the Lester mine the thugs arrested four of our pickets, but they did not do any rough stuff, so all went well.
While the governor was in the strike zone every effort was made to get some of our pickets to commit violence so the governor would send troops into the strike zone. Failing to arouse the miners to start trouble, they tried a new scene. Jim Cameron, the superintendent of the big Turner mine, went down to the bridge which lies between the big and little Turner mines, and when he thought no one was looking he calmly set fire to the bridge. This he thought would surely give the governor good provocation to call out the national guard. Also he would see the headlines in the papers “IWW Burns Bridge.” Then too the organizers could be arrested and charged with arson, sabotage, and all the charges that the masters could trump up against our active members. Then he figured the strike would be disorganized and the workers drift back to the hell holes with the promise of a “fair days wage.”
While all this was going through his head a big dumbbell of a gunman spoiled the whole thing by arresting the superintendent. The big boob of a thug of course did not realize who he was arresting. However Cameron was taken to the Walsenburg jail, where about thirty of our members are lodged, and booked for Arson. Somebody is going to catch hell.
Wednesday night a big mass meeting was held and word was sent to Embree who was on his way to Fremont county with 142 cars carrying Wobbly miners, to pass through Walsenburg on their way to Fremont county where three or four mines have been attempting to operate.
Thursday morning the gunmen at the CF & I Lester mine made a futile attempt to stop our pickets. A big scab herder, WT James, chief of the Lester gunmen, played the role of a hero for this master by trying to stop fellow worker JB Childs from walking on the public highway, near the Lester mine, when ordered to stop the fellow worker refused, stating that he had a right as a citizen of this country to walk on the highway. The thug then hit him on the head with a pick handle. Childs and his fellow workers had of course the “right” but the thug had something more effective than a “right”. He had might: not an intelligent application of might but a crude, degrading and bestial manifestation of it.
In contrast to the might of the master, the IWW advocates a rational scientific application of this power: the might that we speak of and write about is the might which comes through solidarity, the organized force of our labor power. It is this kind of might that the Colorado coal slaves are putting against their masters. Solidarity is not a mere slogan with the IWW — but a reality. The evidence of this speaks for itself. However, it must be remembered that it will take more than the solidarity of the miners in this state to win the strike because the miners are not fighting a local group of masters; they are fighting one of the strongest forces of capitalism, Standard Oil, an organization which has its tentacles in every habited part of the globe. Therefore, it will take not only the IWW of Colorado but every rebel in the United States to help us in this struggle.
Those who are unable to come to the field of battle can help us by sending money which is badly needed. If every rebel would donate a days wage it would give us funds to carry on our relief work which is needed at the present time. Come Fellow Workers, this fight is your fight. Send all relief money to the Colorado Miners Relief and Defense Committee, Box 87, Walsenburg, Colorado.