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Posted by on Sep 4, 2010 in Education, Health, Politics, Society | 0 comments

On Labor Day: Some Lie on the Beach: Others In Labor Were Laid Down


Laying down to catch the sun…

These children from age infant to 13 years old were killed during a holiday party, which was held during a bitter labor strike by their parents who were copper miners in Michigan. The miners had been on strike for five months to gain more than $3.50 per day wages, lowering of 10 hours a day required work in a crouch, and to gain more safety inside the mines for the workers. The mine owners refused to recognize them, refused to bargain, and the Calumet Michigan government ordered in militia on foot and on horseback and the brutality was ongoing against the unarmed Slovenian and Finnish, Croatian and Italian miners.

At a Yuletide party for the workers that Christmas of 1913, on the second floor hall of the Italian Hall, a man entered the gala of miners’ families and shouted urgently, Fire!

The miners’ families knew how deathly fire could be, for fires in the mines destroyed lives. They all ran for the staircase to the lower landing at which were the doors leading to the outdoors. But the doors opened inward, and in the crush of parents trying to save children and spouses, seventy-three died from being crushed and asphyxiated.

The majority were children, many only children, many brothers and sisters, one infant survived as his parents held him over their heads, but both parents perished.

The speculation is not greater than the grief still remembered there. It appears, as often is the case, both in town hall meetings, and in strikes, and I’ve witnessed such in legislative chambers, in press conferences and on strike lines many times in my life… a known or unknown person enters the strikers’ or contestants’ gathering pretending to be one of them at first, but then attacks, or makes a false charge or does true harm to others… and then leaves, poof, untraceable somehow, never found again.

Others might temporarily forget Labor Day (which originally was passed by law in six days to compensate for a Pullman’s Strike that again, unleashed such violence against the workers who dared to stand up for decent wages) is a time to remember those who fought and often lost when pushing for parity, fairness, safety, and care in dangerous work where company owners often put property and production before the value of a human life. Long before there were unions, there were those who literally gave all the blood and bone they had to their labors.