Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XXIV
King and the Rockefellers--Mother Jones and the Colorado mines--A plan that worked

THE Rockefellers were just coming to grips with a discovery that had been causing distress to reformed privateers for several thousand years: It is not always possible to wipe out the past simply by hauling down the skull and crossbones. John D., Sr., his early raids on the American economy far behind him, was in retirement, jovially doling out his personal dimes to golf caddies and small boys and his newly formed foundation's millions to worthy charities. John D., Jr., was busy trying, among other things, to improve the family's record and reputation as an employer. But to the consternation of both, the name of Rockefeller had entered the language not merely as a name but as a word. To millions it had become and stubbornly remained a symbol of all that was reactionary and cruel in American Big Business.

This truth had come home to them with sickening impact in the coal mines of Colorado. All the major mines had gone on strike there in September 1913. Superficially the main issue was recognition of the United Mine Workers of America, but there were other issues far more grave and fundamental. Most of the grimy, strongbacked men digging coal in the mountain wilderness of southern Colorado were immigrants from Italy, the Balkans, and Mexico who knew little of collective bargaining and cared little about its principles. But they knew too well that the abundant, generous America of their dreams had failed them, herded them somehow into company houses in company towns, put them into perpetual debt to company stores at company-dictated wages of a thousand dollars a year, provided them with no local government but the company, no means of seeking redress from their real or fancied grievances

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