The Long, Sorrowful Ludlow Legacy
Editor’s note: This is the first of two columns looking at the legacy of the Ludlow Massacre on its 94th anniversary.
By David Sirota
Ninety-four years ago on April 20, America made international news when a government-sanctioned paramilitary unit murdered Colorado union organizers at a Rockefeller-owned coal mine. The Ludlow Massacre was “a story of horror unparalleled in the history of industrial warfare,” wrote The New York Times in 1914—and the abomination was not just the violence, but the way political and corporate leaders colluded on their homicidal plans to protect profits.
Sanitized history teaches that our government has since changed. Quite the contrary, as the Bush administration this week moves to legitimize the methods of Ludlow through its Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Colombia resembles Colorado in the early 20th century, only with more frequent slaughters. In the last two decades, over 2,500 Colombian labor organizers have been assassinated, making Colombia the world’s most dangerous place for unionists.
This violence is underwritten by companies like Chiquita, which has financed Colombian death squads that “destroyed unions, terrorized workers and killed thousands of civilians,” according to Portfolio magazine. The brutality deliberately depresses labor costs in a country where business analysts cite exploitative conditions as reason to invest.
This situation, like Ludlow, developed not in spite of the governing elite, but thanks to it. As The Washington Post reports, Colombia’s “most influential political, military and business figures helped build” the killing machine. Recently, prosecutors connected these paramilitaries to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s allies.