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You ought to be out raising hell. This is the fighting age. Put on your fighting clothes.
-Mother Jones

Thursday July 14, 1904
Indianapolis, Indiana - U. M. W. of A. Withdraws Support from Colorado Coal Strike

From the July 7th edition of the Indianapolis News:



The United Mine Workers' national organization, which has taken great care not to become involved in the Colorado fight between the State officers, militia and citizens' Alliance, on one side, and the Western Federation of Miners on the other, has taken a very significant step in withdrawing financial support from the 8,000 U. M. W. of A. men who have been on strike in that state since last fall. Under existing conditions, both in Colorado and in the general industrial world, the national organization advised the miners to return to work under the best terms that could obtain at this time, and the national executive board, at its last session, on the refusal of the Colorado miners to act on its advice ordered that financial support be withdrawn on July 1. This was done, and while the organization is still represented by the union workers in the State, the national organization is not taking part in the strike continued by the Colorado men, who profess to have hopes of winning.

Other Places Require Attention.

This undoubtedly will weaken the organization temporarily in that one district, possibly in the West and Northwest. It is understood that the United Mine Workers have dumped $500,000 into Colorado in the last six months. The let-down in industrial conditions has made it vital that the organization now pay special attention to the Eastern part of the country, and because of these conditions it was thought advisable to cut off the Colorado aid.

A report that President Mitchell's letter stating that the national organization would withdraw its support from the Colorado miners was not read at the meeting of June, but has just become known, was denied at Mine Workers headquarters to-day.

William B Wilson
William B Wilson
"Members of the executive board were present at the meeting." said Secretary Wilson, "and there is no doubt that the letter was read at that time. There is no truth in the statement that the letter was withheld. The national organization has withdrawn its support, it is true, but the southern Colorado miners have voted to continue the strike on their own resources."

The Alabama and Eastern Tennessee annual agreement expired July 1, and inasmuch as a new contract has not been made on the basis of the Indianapolis settlement for the central competitive field, 10,000 men have gone on strike in those two States. Four thousand more are on strike in the central Pennsylvania district, 3,000 in the Meyersdale district, 2,500 in Ohio and 1,000 in West Virginia. W. J. Fairley, a national committeeman of Alabama, is in charge of the big strike that has been begun in that State.

Do Not Discuss Situation.

The officers of the United Mine Workers are very careful not to make statements bearing on the Colorado situation. They are trying to keep the United Mine Workers' organization out of the conflict in Colorado. It is known, however, by all those who are familiar with the two organizations that the United Mine Workers' officers do not concur in many of ideas of socialism prevalent in the Western Federation. Socialism, however, seems to have been lost sight of in the active issues that have arisen in Colorado. The socialistic tendencies seem to date back to the failure of the Legislature to enact labor laws that were authorized by the vote of the people of Colorado at the polls.

President John Mitchell, of the United Mine Workers, is in Europe and is not called on to make any statements. At this time he is in Scotland observing the living and mining conditions there. He will go to France, Belgium and Germany after having visited all of the mining districts in Great Britain, and will then attend the International Mining Congress in Paris. He has a seat in that body, with W. S. Dodds, of Pittsburg. They are the American representatives. Dodds is making the tour of the mining regions with him. Mitchell will begin in the course of the next two or three weeks a series of articles in the United Mine Workers Journal in which he will record his observations.

A Letter from Mitchell.

John Mitchell
John Mitchell
A letter from President Mitchell has just been received by Secretary Wilson. Mr. Mitchell wrote from the Hotel Russell, Russell Square, London, June 25. He said that he arrived there on the 19th and had spent the greater part of the time in sight-seeing, piloted by John Burns, the celebrated labor leader and member of Parliament.

Most of his visits, the letter said, had been confined to the congested districts of the east End, but he had had time to visit the Houses of Parliament and to meet the officials of the various miners' organizations of Great Britain, who had been in conference in London to protest against a war tax that has been placed on coal exported from the United Kingdom.

It was Mr. Mitchell's expectation to leave London on the 27th of June for a visit to the northern coal counties of England, to Scotland, Ireland and Wales and later to the continent.

The Indianapolis News
(Indianapolis, Indiana)
 -of July 7, 1904

William B Wilson
John Mitchell


Monday July 14, 2014
More on Mother Jones, John Mitchell, and the Defeat of the Southern Colorado Miners

Mother Jones Standing Pointing
Readers of Hellraisers will remember that Mother Jones strongly opposed the separte agreement for the northern Colorado miners pushed through by John Mitchell in the late fall of 1903. The striking miners of the southern Colorado coalfields, who mostly spoke Italian, were left deserted by their northern brothers who mostly spoke English. After the withdrawal of support from the U. M. W. of A., the strikers in the southern field carried on as best they could but were eventually forced to surrender to Industrial Feudalism.

Mother Jones put the blame on John Mitchell and never forgave him for what she considered his betrayal of the miners and their families in the southern Colorado coalfields. In her autobiography she later stated:

The miners were evicted from their company-owned houses. They went out on the bleak mountain sides, lived in tents through a terrible winter with the temperature below zero, with eighteen inches of snow on the ground. They tied their feet in gunny sacks and lived lean and lank and hungry as timber wolves. They received sixty-three cents a week strike benefit while John Mitchell went traveling through Europe, staying at fashionable hotels, studying the labor movement. When he returned the miners had been lashed back into the mines by hunger but John Mitchell was given a banquet in the Park Avenue Hotel and presented with a watch with diamonds.

[Note: in this chapter she conflates the WFM strike at Cripple Creek with the coal strike in the southern Colorado]

At the end of her Autobiography, Mother gives warning regarding "modern leaders of labor," and states her continuing condemnation of John Mitchell in the harshest of terms:
Many of our modern leaders of labor have wandered far from the thorny path of these early crusaders. Never in the early days of the labor struggle would you find leaders wining and dining with the aristocracy; nor did their wives strut about like diamond-bedecked peacocks; nor were they attended by humillated, cringing colored servants.

The wives of these early leaders took in washing to make ends meet. Their children picked and sold berries. The women shared the heroism, the privation of their husbands.

In those days labor's representatives did not sit on velvet chairs in conference with labor's oppressors; they did not dine in fashionable hotels with the representatives of the top capitalists, such as the Civic Federation. They did not ride in Pullmans nor make trips to Europe.

The rank and file have let their servants become their masters and dictators. The workers have now to fight not alone their exploiters but likewise their own leaders, who often betray them, who sell them out, who put their own advancement ahead of that of the working masses, who make of the rank and file political pawns.

Provision should be made in all union constitutions for the recall of leaders. Big salaries should not be paid. Career hunters should be driven out, as well as leaders who use labor for political ends. These types are menaces to the advancement of labor.

In big strikes I have known, the men lay in prison while the leaders got out on bail and drew high salaries all the time. The leaders did not suffer. They never missed a meal. Some men make a profession out of labor and get rich thereby. John Mitchell left to his heirs a fortune, and his political friends are using the labor movement to gather funds to erect a monument to his memory, to a name that should be forgotten.

One of her closest friends, John H. Walker, who was actually more of a son to her than a friend, was not pleased with her long-held grudge against John Mitchell. He wrote to her in 1926:
Now Mother, on these other matters, I dislike very much to write you, because during all of our lifetime, we have agreed almost entirely on the different issues, but in this, I disagree with you. I think you had such feeling on the John Mitchell matter that you could not give it your usual calm, cool, impartial judgment; and I have as much feeling the other way. So that for that reason, I would not want to connect myself with that book [her autobiography].
Clarence Darrow addressed the issue in his introduction to the Autobiography:
I never personally knew anything of her misunderstandings with John Mitchell, but it seems only fair for me to say that I was associated with him for many months in the arbitration growing out of the coal strike. We were friends for many years and he always had my full respect and trust. I cannot help feeling that both were true and that the disagreements were only such as inevitably grow out of close association of different types of mind in a great conflict.

Mother Jones was always doubtful of the good of organized institutions. These require compromises and she could not compromise. To her there was but one side. Right and wrong were forever distinct. The type is common to all great movements. It is essentially the difference between the man of action and the philosopher. Both are useful. No one can decide the relative merits of the two.

This little book is a story of a woman of action fired by a fine zeal. She defied calumny. She was not awed by guns or jails. She kept on her way regardless of friends and foes. She had but one love to which she was always true and that was her cause. People of this type are bound to have conflicts within and without the ranks.


The Autobiography of Mother Jones
 -by Mother Jones
 -Edited by Mary Field Parton
 -Introduction by Clarence Darrow
Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1925.

The Correspondence of Mother Jones
 -ed by Edward M Steel
U of Pittsburgh Press, 1985

Mother Jones

Hardtimes in Coleman's Mines - Aunt Molly Jackson


Originally posted to Hellraisers Journal on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shamrock American Kossacks, In Support of Labor and Unions, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and History for Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 11:00:09 AM PDT

  •  Another good one JayRaye... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, northsylvania, YucatanMan

    I don't know enough about Mitchell to chose any side but I think Mother was wise in:

    In those days labor's representatives did not sit on velvet chairs in conference with labor's oppressors; they did not dine in fashionable hotels with the representatives of the top capitalists...Provision should be made in all union constitutions for the recall of leaders. Big salaries should not be paid. Career hunters should be driven out, as well as leaders who use labor for political ends. These types are menaces to the advancement of labor.
    That quote equally appies to our Congressional representatives.  The more they wine and dine with the aristocrats, the more they lose touch with the average American.  
    Thanks again JayRaye for all the effort you put into this series.

    The most un-convincable man is the one whose paycheck depends on remaining unconvinced. -- H. L. Mencken

    by kharma on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 11:43:19 AM PDT

    •  Everything she said about Mitchell was true. (5+ / 0-)

      He did betray the southern Colorado miners by forcing thru a separate agreement with the northern (mostly anglo) miners.

      He did live very high off the hog.

      He did stab the rank and file in the back thru his position in the Civic Federation.

      However, Mother fails to consider the whole truth: under Mitchell's leadership, the UMWA saw phenomenal growth. And amassed a huge treasury, and that treasury is what funded the strikes of the day, and also, I might add, paid the salary of Mother Jones as a UMWA organizer.

      The statement that Mother made about how Mitchell's name should be forgotten, that I can't agree with at all.

      From Mother's point of view, while John Mitchell was living in luxury, she was out in the field with the suffering strikers. And the suffering of the miners and their families, esp the children, is what moved her the most. It was always about the children for Mother Jones. Perhaps thinking of her own little children, all four lost in Memphis plague in 1867.

      God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

      by JayRaye on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 12:01:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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