With various Tea Party-led anti-union efforts afoot in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire and all over the country growing increasingly more vehement, it seems a particularly appropriate time to consider the oppressive work conditions from whence the union movement sprang -- and the violent opposition it encountered. Of that violence, there's probably no better example than the Ludlow Massacre, where, in August of 1913, a tent colony of 1,000 striking miners, women and children was burned to the ground by the Colorado National Guard, killing hundreds. That massacre, and the coal miner's strike that surrounded it, provide the subject matter of Alex Johnston's Way Down in the Hole, screening tonight at the University of Denver campus.
The documentary follows the striking miners from the assassination of union organizer Gerald Lippiat (who, remarkably, traveled to Trinidad to organize pretty much knowing he was going to be killed) to Ludlow and through its aftermath, when miners mounted an armed insurrection and took over an area around Trinidad about the size of Connecticut -- and through those events, considers questions of class, labor, immigration and the fabric of the American way.
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