tv Cities Tour- Labor Movement in the U.S. CSPAN July 6, 2021 4:52am-6:00am EDT
>> labor or trade unions represent millions of american workers from many industries, seeking safer working conditions and better pay, among other rights for their members. while some see them as a champion of the working class, others believe are a hindrance to capitalism, and to the workers they represent. over the next hour, we will look at different aspects of the labor movement in the u.s.. we begin in bakersfield, california and hear from dolores where to, a lead -- dolores huerta, a leader of the united farm workers union. dolores: i moved to california when i was six years old.
my mother brought myself and my two brothers to california and as a teenager we were harassed by the police and had a lot of discrete nation in high school against all of the kids of color. and also the very poor kids, 'oakie'kids as they call them faced a lot of discrimination at the high school i went to. so you always had the sense of injustice happening all around you. stockton, california, where i was raised as an agricultural community like bakersfield. you have a lot of the same dynamics that were going on there, a lot of people of color did farm work. so, it was always trying to denigrate the people who did farm work and making them feel like they were lesser people as individuals, so that kind of dynamic sort of permeated the whole community. we started in 1942 when we went into the war, and they brought in many people from mexico to
fulfill the needs of farm labor. what happened is after the war ended, they kept bringing more and more people in. so, local workers and domestic workers, their wages dropped to $.50 an hour. and the owners would bring in the brazeros, and not hire the local workers. i grow up and started organizing farm work is in stockton, california and for the agricultural workers association as part of the afl-cio. i left the organization because i felt they were not doing the kind of organizing that was going to really be successful. that is when we started the united farmworkers union. we organize from 1962-1965 and a 1965 we had a huge strike where workers came out on strike. >> striking workers began a 300 mile pilgrimage northward. dolores: that strike went on for
five years starting in 1965 and it did not end until 1970. we cannot win the strike because they kept arresting us and bringing in more and more strikebreakers. what we did is we started a national boycott of california table grapes. when the employer saw they could not sell grapes and they were not making a profit anymore, that is when they decided they would sign contracts with the union. basically you learned and teach people have power. you do not have to be rich or speak the english language or be a u.s. edison but you do have power -- or be a u.s. citizen, but you have power and coming changes. one of the provisions we got was the right to toilets in the field. people don't realize the crops picked in the field go into the box and to the supermarket and not to the car wash, right? the fruits and vegetables put into that box as it goes to the supermarket. it is horrifying to think, that farmworkers did not even have toilets in the fields or call
drinking water or soap and hand washing facilities. yet all of that is going directly to the supermarket, the produce. we got that into our contracts in 1966. we finally got it as a state law in 1975. it did not become a national law until 1985. so now we do have a national law that says employers have to have toilets in the field for their workers, separate one for men and one for women and they're supposed to keep them clean, also. when you think of all of the great things that came out of the farmworker movement in terms of legislation and leadership, i think there are probably few regrets but there are a lot of gains and a lot of wins. from the first day we started the community service organization and the united farmworkers, we have always been engaged in helping people immigrate to the united states. in 1986, we were able to pass
legislation where we got legalization for one million. farmworkers our partner in the senate was ted kennedy who helped us get that law, along with peter rodino from new jersey. rights have always been at the top and we are continuing that struggle now. because we have immigrants, right? legislation is going to the congress. i do not think the guest worker program should be implanted at all when we have high on appointment. in kern county we have -- high unemployment. in kern county we have 30% unemployment and yet employers continue to bring in people from other countries to do the work. they keep saying ordinary people will not do this work and that is not true at all. you look again at the grapes of wrath when that was going on, people came from other places. we have many people here in kern county who are individuals now in office and that hold different positions in government. they were once farmworkers.
it is not that people will not do farm work, it is that the employers do not want to pan f. money for them to do farm work and they do not want -- employers do not want to pay money for them to do farm work. and they do not want to give them health benefits. they consider themselves professionals and should be treated with dignity. if you are not going to treat people's dignity and that is why they bring people in from other countries who do not know the law and are afraid to speak up because they would be deported or sent out or that their contracts would be cut off if they speak out and fight for the rights. so we should develop a local farm labor force as we have not before. [applause] the freedom represents the work of thousands of people that have worked to make a better life. for the farmworkers and the farmworkers union we had five farmworkers killed, two here in kern county. i get the medal of freedom but
it comes on the backs of many people that have fought for the rights of farmworkers. men and women in that role. we were able to make a lot of gains for farmworkers in california. we know that there are still pockets of california where, especially when they bring in immigrants who do not know the rights, where farmworkers are still mistreated. where the employers are not following the laws in terms of providing them with a clean toilet for also cream -- at or clean drinking water or safety conditions. that they are entitled to. then the basic rights we got for farmworkers in california, farmworkers throughout the countries -- throughout this country still do not have those basic rights. i think that is a tragedy. >> in the mid-1900s, detroit's auto industry provided workers with good paying, union jobs, helping grow america's middle class. we will visit the ford plant where historian shares a piece of motor city history.
first, hear about the auto labor strike in toledo, ohio, an event that helped lead to further unionization of the growing auto industry. >> where we are standing used to be that sight of the electric auto plant, one of the many automotive part manufacturers located here in toledo, as the automotive industry began to take hold here in the 1920's and 1930's. the significance in why this part is here -- park is here, this park represents a crescendo in the labor movement in toledo. what happened was, there was a strike. a lot of unions were trying to organize and get recognition from factories. so you had a strike that began and a thousand workers went on strike.
obviously, they wanted better wages are better working conditions. you have to remember, this is in the middle of the depression. so we have thousands and thousands and maybe one out of three workers out of work in the city. so there was a lot of tension and pressure. if people went on strike, it was easy to find strike breakers. back in those days, because there was no union, there was nothing to stop that, except the strikers themselves. they would come out and in this case with a plant they would amass at the gates and tried to stop the strikebreakers from going in. so we had some very, very difficult intense days. then, he kept getting worse. it was not getting any better. the strike lingered on. it started in april, 1934, and lingered into mank. toward -- into may. toward the end of may, it got to
the point and without getting too deep into the weeds of who did what, thousands of people turned out here, to join in 70, with the strikers. thousands, thousands of unemployed people turned out on the street. and at this plant, to basically protest, and bottle the police you got sent here. and the police were not part of trying to keep peace because they were in 70 with the strikers. many people -- they were in sympathy with the strikers. many people in the factory did not want the police here. so they brought in the sheriffs department and there were deputies -- private deputies hired. and the national guard was called and finally. they did not call in the national guard from this area because they were also in 70 with the strikers. -- they were also in sympathy with the strikers. so they had to call them from
other parts of the state, a hundred miles away, to try to keep calm here. but it was very difficult. there was an incredible amount of violence going on. there were bricks thrown and punches thrown. there was teargas. there was what they called vomit bombs and for three days this continued. on the fifth day they got 2000 people who came out to sympathize with the strikers in the next day they got another 2000, 4 thousand, 5000 and that as many as 6000-10,000 people showed up. it became a scene of mass confusion, of great violence. the national guard called and was trying to keep the peace but it was very difficult and finally the national guard was given orders. once strikers started to move on the national guard, the national guard was given orders that they could fire, and they did. they opened fire on the strikers. and on the sympathizers.
people were killed and that gunfire. probably as many as 15 were wounded but hundreds more were injured in the melee that ensued. cooler heads prevailed and they were able to tamp down the violence and tamp down the tensions that ensued. in many ways, the violence of that day, may 25, 1934, sort of stopped everybody in their tracks. and they said hey, there has to be a better way. eventually, eventually, the plant recognized the union. eventually they recognize the union and it w was a win for the labor movement. as many labor historians will tell you, this was probably one of the most important strikes in labor union history in america. because it really opens the door
for the united auto workers to begin unionizing and other factories. as they did with chevy, in 1935, the great strike against chevrolet which opened the doors there. so this had a significant impact on the power and strength of neighbor -- of labor unions, what happened here at this auto light factory in 1934. >> the connection to the auto industry is extremely deep. the automobile was not invented in detroit. but very early on a number of auto enthusiasts gathered here. as soon as a nucleus of people came together who wanted to build cars here, it attracted more and more people. olds when he created his first auto factory, he put it on the detroit river. there was a railroad, the son of a railroad baron, henry b joy,
who convinced the packard company from ohio to move their facility to detroit. he figured it was a fabulous place to do business and for manufacturing. john and horace dodge were keep machine shop owners. they became stockholders in ford motor company. they have a car named after them nowadays because they wanted to build her own car as well. all of these people coming together, sort of the silicon valley of its era. henry ford was the son of a major farmer, in the dearborn area. his father had friends, and one was eventually mayor of detroit, and other business leaders. but henry ford did not want to be a farmer. he was more interested in machinery. one of his heroes was thomas edison. he eventually got to detroit and
started working for the edison illuminating company. in his spare time, he tinkered with wanting to build his own motor, and build his own car. personal transportation in the time when henry ford got started here in detroit included the horse and buggy. we also had streetcars at that time, that operated. and there were things called inter--urbans, railways that would connect one city area to another, as opposed to the big railroads. so it was not very well developed. you had bicycles, too. that was a major form of transportation that gave people mobility. and other entrepreneurs in this area were building bicycles to get people mobility. typically in that time, you did not go more than 50 miles from your home, maybe in your lifetime.
so, there was a big need, people wanted to move around. they just did not have that ability until the car came about. henry ford's desire to build the model t really starts with the idea of wanting to build cars, for the masses, to begin with. they started with a model called the model a. then you would have a progression of models, not much different from other car companies. a lot of ford stockholders wanted him to build more high-priced cars, like the rich man's toy, because that is who is buying cars. eventually, forgot the desire to build a car that was high-quality -- eventually ford got the desire to build a car that was high-quality but that more people could afford. that led to the creation of the model t here in this plant. henry ford first completed the
model t around 1908. there was a period of extermination before that, and one of the plate -- of experimentation nearby. -- of experimentation nearby. they walled off the areas in doing their experiments. the model t became innovative in using a lightweight steel, called palladium steel. and it had a number of other features that you could only get in the higher-priced car. first, there was not an assembly line at this plant when the first model t's were handbuilt. there were different stations in the factory where they would assemble components and maybe roll it to another section and assemble another component or two there.
the assembly line did develop here, eventually. initially, there was not one. they were looking at ways to build cars faster and faster. that would eventually lead to experiments to do an assembly line. the public reaction to the first ford cars was pretty enthusiastic. but you have to remember, there might have been 100 automakers in the united states at the time the model t was launched. in detroit alone, you had packard, cadillac, buick, oldsmobile, lansing -- oldsmobile in lansing, studebaker was getting involved, a big carriage maker. so a lot of different companies. the model t eventually did become more and more successful,
because of the low price and the perceived high-quality of it for its type. -- it's time. the success of the model t helped galvanize rib detroit as the motor city -- helped galvanize detroit as the motor city, the motor capital of the world. eventually they were producing one million units or more model t's out of different plans in detroit or branch plants elsewhere in the country. that really galvanize that detroit was the center of american automotive industry, if not the world at that time. because there was no other company in europe that was building one million plus units of one vehicle at a time. and that, again, drew more and more entrepreneurs to this area because they wanted to be involved in the auto industry. it helped build the city up from
, basically, being a small hamlet, originally, to maybe one of the top five cities in the united states, by the 1950's. also, the wealth of the auto industry got transferred to a lot of the workers. part of that was because of the rise of the union movement here, for people to earn a living wage, where they can support their families. were they can be working at the auto factories, and would have a middle-class income. that helps allow people to buy more than one car. you had to car families -- t wo-car families. it allowed them to send their children for higher education. it was great wealth and a great number of benefits the auto industry provided to detroit, and the surrounding community. the auto industry has gone through a lot of challenges, ups
and downs. some authors write books such as the rise and fall of detroit's auto industry. well, we have gone through a number of peaks and valleys over the years. right now, at one time general motors used to be considered the number one auto come any in the world -- auto company in the world, based on its manufacturing and its income. today, argued lee, that is toyotas spot. -- today, arguably, that is toyota's spot. ford motor company you to be considered number two based on its manufacturing and profitability. and i believe it is ranked below volkswagen on that. these things come and go in waves. detroit nowadays is seeing a resurgence in the city itself, because of the success of our auto companies here.
four ford motor company and general motors, they are concentrating a lot of the research and development efforts here in the detroit area. and that has drawn a lot of the foreign automakers here. toyota, nissan, honda, they all have technical centers around the detroit area. and that is because we have this nucleus of talent, and education, and universities, all geared, to helping the auto industry out. >> according to the u.s. bureau of labor statistics, in 2020, 14 million workers belong to a labor union. among race and ethnicity groups, black workers have the highest union membership rate at 12.3%. now we take it to oakland, to hear about the pullman porters and the first predominantly
black labor union. >> george pullman was an entrepreneur, a man associated with the railroads and the business of railroads. and he really got this lightbulb of an idea. in the years after the civil war , 1867-1868, railroad rob out was still pretty rough. -- railroad travel was still pretty rough. the industry was growing and people traveled by railroad and the cars were cramped and it was smoky and they were dirty. it was not a very convenient way to travel. pullman came up with the idea that, if we can make these cars, the so-called luxury cars, where people could travel in comfort, that would be a boon to business. and he could sell these cars and
make a fortune, that was the idea behind what became known as the pullman cars, a luxurious way to travel. con committed -- concommittan with that thought was if you havet luxury travel and people want to stay in a luxury hotel, maybe you would like to be served in the same way in the same capacity. what better way, pullman thought, of fulfilling this dream and fantasy of a lot of passengers, was to have black folks wait on them. a pullman porter, his job was basically, to attend to the needs of the white passengers on the trains. that run the gamut from shining shoes to attending to the sick, to serving meals, and anything
else that a passenger really wanted. but this group of men, a lot of them coming out of the south, not the majority necessarily. but if there was any opportunity to free oneself from the drudgery of agricultural labor or the dangers of industrial labor, a lot of factory jobs that black people had to take in the south, sharecropping aside, you would do it. so, if an opportunity presented itself that you could work on this train, however long the hours and demeaning the conditions, at least the most dangerous animals on the trains were often the passengers themselves. the tips and the salary that the parties were paid as a group, afforded them a lot of the
luxuries, i guess, that with affect the qualities of their lives were not available to an average african-american working as a custodian or in some other form of menial labor. this disposable income or extra income, especially from the tips that could be made, allowed pullman porters to care for their families and their extended families, to a greater extent than they would have been otherwise. it afforded the opportunity to purchase homes and property. it afforded them the opportunity to purchase automobiles, for example. these are all items that were certainly available to most well-to-do consumers, and not to a majority of the american public, regardless of race. so, this kind of employment allowed pullman porters to move into areas, into an area we would today classify as like the
middle class. they were middle-class within the black community itself. and so, they were sort of the catalyst for a lot of businesses that were started, wherever they decided to live. a lot of places were terminal points of the railroad, like here in oakland, where we have the terminal, the terminus of the southern pacific railroad, here in west oakland. many decided they liked california and wednesday in california and thus contribute it to the jumpstarting the african american community here in oakland. so in terms of jumpstarting, they are very important. here in oakland, one of the most
important things that the pullman porters are known for is , founding the first black labor union. the brotherhood of sleeping car porters, founded under the direction of a. philip randolph , who had a staunch care, capable right-hand man, who lived in oakland at the time the unit was founded, 1925 -- at the time the union was founded, 1925. there was a man named c. l. dellums who became the west coast representative of the pullman porters for many years. in addition to being the west coast representative and a key right-hand man to a. philip randolph. we are standing here in the archives department of the african-american museum and
library of oakland. we have three departments, a museum, department, a reference department, and archives. the archives is an important department here. we have a lot of visits from researchers and scholars in the general public and researchers researching african-american history. we are happy if they are coming to the research on the pullman porters, we have quite a few things that can dig into. we are here looking at a few items mainly from one collection, the jj briant collection, donated by misses briant -- j.j. briant collection -this is a photograph of jj bryant outside one of his workstations. you can see he has his uniform, ready to work.
it must've been cold, he has a thick pair of gloves on. over here, you can see this is his jacket that he is wearing in this photograph. we have is cap, rather well worn. a pullman porter cap. he definitely wanted to let you know it was pullman calling the shots. i mentioned earlier we were talking about the importance of the pullman porters being the first black trade union. i mentioned the importance of a man on the west coast who was the right-hand man for a. philip randolph, the founder of the brotherhood of sleeping car porters. to his right in this picture is c.l. dellums, a very important figure. he was the president of what
they called the fourth international. so he held a high rank in the governing body of the brotherhood of sleeping car porters. we mentioned the importance of unionization which was fought for almost 15 years. they thought to be recognized as a legitimate labor union, affiliated with the american federation of labor. this is a pamphlet that came out, signed by the general secretary treasurer of the motherhood of sleeping car porters and a. philip randolph, asking why every porter should join the brotherhood, and pay dues? this is a 19 point list of why.
because, the brotherhood stood firm against great opposition for over five years. because the brotherhood has won a $2 million wage increase, $120 more than when the union began, for 12,000 porters. that is significant, that raise, in the 1920's or 1930's or 1940's, that is a significant raise. that was a great raise and a great salary. here is another having to do with salary. because the brotherhood has put $20 more in weight-- $420 more in wages in the form of two wage increases of five dollars each. it does not tell like much but at the time it was written, that was a big deal. what countered the and they understood this, was a level of
respect that these guys had within their own communities. they were looked upon as being the professionals. they had a job, they were a uniform. they were conversant, they had seen the world. you know, they crossed the country back and forth, they brought news. they could discuss issues that the locals did not know anything about. not only that, they would demonstrate their commitment in various ways. i mentioned, by spreading the money around. you know, by purchasing a home and property. you could point to, that is mr. so-and-so's house, here is a pullman porter. great, and not just spending their money in conspicuous ways, but also supporting churches, youth organizations, those kinds of activities, that gave them the kind of cachet and prestige in their communities that seemed in congress when you think of, you're still working and a servant. well, most black people at the
time, those were the kinds of job that were given us, they were all serving positions. but it depends how you dealt with that psychologically, and in terms of surviving, and approving the quality of your life, and the lives of your family. and, by extrapolation over the years, the quality of life are those who lived in your community. >> trade unions in the united states represent workers from a variety of industries. the largest union in the country is the national education association, which represents teachers and others working in education. our look at labor disputes throughout american history continues. swept across the country, several states saw educators demonstrate with walkouts, demanding better pay and more funding for schools. emily hillard, the co-editor of 55 strong talks about the movement and how it got its start in west virginia.
>> this is the west virginia state capital and in february of 2018, this was the site for multiple rallies for the west virginia teacher strike. teachers assembled on these steps, filling all the space on the ground. there were speakers on the ground, speaking to the crowd. this was a strike over health insurance pei a benefits. p -- teachers were striking for a raise. their premiums were going up so high that even if they received some kind of increase for living expenses, they were getting a decrease in their pay because
their health insurance premium. this was something the state had proposed where they would have to wear these apps that would be tracking their steps. they were very upset about that. they were already ranked very low. there were very upset about that. i think there was unrest over the way they were being treated by some of the legislators. disrespected. there were these insults bandied about that they were babysitters or maybe glorified babysitters. there was this disrespect for the profession that began with many of the teachers that were
striking. they were inciting the mine wars history. those southern coalfields in west virginia are the ones that led the teacher strike this time. they signified that history by wearing red bandanas around their neck. that was something that they were around her neck to prevent friendly fire but also to signified they were a union member. it was the one thing that the union gave them that they did not have to buy from the company store. they did not want to have to go to the company store because it was owned by the company. they could identify each other with these red bandanas. in west virginia, some say that the origin of the -- that is the origin of the term redneck. instead of a derogatory term,
they see it as a source of pride. the strike was nine school days from february 23 to march 7. then there was a ripple strike last year. the teachers received a raise when they struck in 2018. there was a bill that was proposed in 2019 that was just one of these huge bills that have -- has all these issues addressed. one of the things it did, while it gave teachers arrays, it would also open up the state charter schools. the teachers vehemently oppose that.
even though it would give them the economic benefit, they kind of showed they were really fighting for the classrooms and their working conditions and how this would affect their students. they struck down that bill and then in a special session in the summer, the legislator still passed a bill that would open up the state to a few charter schools. it seemed like a strategic move to do that when teachers were not in school. but there is no fixed to pia, we will see how that plays out in the legislative session this year. i think a lot of teachers realized they are not necessarily in touch with other teachers across the state. they don't know what other school district are doing.
this was a way for them to all gather on the steps and into the give them a sense of their own power. i think they began to see them selves as a unit. it was true for teachers across the country who were really looking at west virginia as a model. as some of the strike photos came in from arizona, kentucky and oklahoma, some of the signs i thought that don't make us go west virginia on you -- saw said don't make us go west virginia on you. it referred specifically to teachers striking. that is amazing. >> in 1914, a labor dispute at a mining camp in ludlow, colorado would end in violence, leaving 19 men, women and children dead. this author talks about the
event known as the ludlow massacre and how it led to change in labor relations. >> this is an opportunity to think about just how important the labor movement has been in american history and to think about the sacrifices of priest generation -- of the previous generations of american workers. they call it a state militia. it happened in april of 1914. about 20 people were killed on that day. 18 of them were strikers. one militia man was killed today. this was dominated by three companies but the biggest of those companies was called colorado feel and iron. it started off as a colorado
company but in 1903, the rockefeller family became the majority shareholder. that was actually during the course of a less violent but still nasty strike that lasted from 1903-1904. the rockefeller team controlled colorado fuel and iron company. it is this massive company, it had dozens of coal mines, it had iron ore mines. it operated the largest steel mills west of the mississippi river. it was really intent on controlling its workers. one of the main ways it try to control workers was through the company account system. colorado coworkers and learned that company towns were an effective way to suppress labor militancy. and particularly a way to control the united minors of
america -- miners of america. one of the consequences of living in company housing was that if you went on strike, you would be evicted in short order. there were upwards of 10,000 coal miners. the union land to set up a series of 10 colonies. one early on that would become the center of conflict was outside of junction town. there was only a railroad depot, a southern, a few houses. that town was called ludlow. most of the people living in the ludlow tent colony were evicted. essentially, a tent colony was a refugee camp.
but it was a refugee camp with a purpose. the strikers were there because of that position, they could harass strikebreakers. they could stop companies from importing workers to replace them in the minds. -- mines. there were two important consequent as to the violence and fallout that would have important implications for the ludlow secure. the first of these is that because of the shooting that was so common by october of 1913, many strikers believed they should dig sellers -- cellars underneath their tents. they were to store food and do the things that americans typically did. cellars in that center were root cellars. there were also meant to be defensive structures. strikers were afraid that
gunfights would break out. they wanted a place that women and children could be safeguarded. the other important consequence of the shooting is that the militia was called out. at the behest of local law enforcement officials, government sent out the state militia. at this point, the colorado state much i had a bad reputation among the state labor movement. the militia had been used repeatedly both in the coal mining region but also in the gold and silver area. they mostly did not have a good reputation among working people in colorado. this was a democratic administration in colorado. it had been elected with heavy support from the labor -- heavy support from the labor movement. they decided to cut the militia some slack. the militia was welcomed with open arms by most strikers. most believed the militia would come and bow -- be a
peacekeeping force. at ludlow, they had the strikers at ludlow and there were about 1200 of them and they had a parade for the state militia when they showed up. the militia really changes its character over the winter of 1913 and 1914. the first big thing that happens is most of the militia at the beginning of the strike mustered out. they were on 90 day tours of duty. this was an unpleasant job. the farm boys and clerks had been in the militia at the beginning of the strike and they did not want to reenlist. the militia becomes increasingly popular by mine guards, men who worked as thugs. the other thing that starts happening is the colorado -- is that colorado had distrusted the
militia. he thought he could control them as they refused to pay their bills. the irony of this is that what the militia did in response was it went to the coal operators. the coal operators organized a set of meetings with the other large industrials in colorado. they met with the bankers and the railroad companies, the goldmine operators. the capitalist start funding the state militia. the militia by the spring of 1914 is populated by former mine guards and is having its bills paid by the large industrial interests of the state. attentions -- the tensions mount over the winter of 1914. there is more violent, more controversy, mother jones gets arrested. women marched, it is a nasty strike from beginning to end. in early april it looked like things were getting better.
the governor felt like things were improving and he actually withdrew most of the militia from southern colorado. this would be one of those actions that would seem like a good thing but have tragic consequent is because the militia meant that retained -- men that remained in southern colorado felt more paranoid. what happened on april 20 in the massacre is still a little tough to pieced together. -- peace together. -- tough to piece together. most of the evidence suggests that there was a lot of trash talking on the day before unable 19. both militia men and strikers at ludlow believed their opponents were getting ready to start something.
both groups were actually ready to go. they were fearing for their lives. they both feared their opponents were going to attack them on the next day. on the morning of april 20, the head of the militia at ludlow ordered one of the strike leaders, louis the greek. he was referred to as the captain of the ludlow colony. he is ordered to come in and there was a woman looking for her husband. she was claiming that her husband was being held by the strikers against his will. this miner incident would set the stage for the violence that happened later on. one thing led to another. it is impossible to tell at this point who shot first gunfire began. both sides were really ready for a fight. both sides believed that their
opponent was about to try to wipe them away. the fighting got very heated very quickly. the next stage in the fighting, the strikers tried to save the tent colony. most of the women and children were put underground for their own protection and then the mail strikers tried to divert the militia fire away from the tent colony. they tried to get out of there. they went into an arroyo. a dry creek bed. they tried to get the militia men to shoot at the colony. the problem with this strategy is the militia men have this tent colony at their disposal. in the afternoon of info 20th, the militia takes over the tent colony and under very suspicious
circumstances, the tent colony caught on fire. it is tough to say how it caught on fire. this is one of the things that remained somewhat controversial. strikers would accuse militia men of setting them on fire. militia men would say that the strikers were using exposing bullets. i think that the militia men may have set it on fire. the tents burned very hotly. there was a sailor being used as an infirmary and the people in there were mostly very young children and women. above this cellar, the fire burned so hot that everyone down there were a fixated -- asphyxiated.
some people made it out alive but it was the death of these women and children in the cellar that elevated it. it is unclear whether we call this the ludlow massacre without that large amount of killing in that particular cellar. strikers throughout southern colorado learned what had happened at ludlow. they did not know quite what the body count was. there were a lot of crazy rumors. people were saying 60 people were killed, 100 people were killed. the body count would not be clear for several days. they knew that a lot of the dead were women and children. strikers throughout the region uncashed weapons they had hidden. the strikers did not trust the national guard. they had guns, cash throughout southern colorado that the
strikers got out their weapons and formed themselves into small military brigades. a lot of them were military veterans. they knew how to fight. they were better at small-group tactics than the state militia turned out to be. then they go to the 10 days war. you can even think of this as an uprising. it was a rebellion. by the time they laid their arms down 10 days later, they killed about 30 people, they dynamited a couple of mines and destroyed a couple of company towns. i think they're targeting was very blurry -- deliberate. they were trying to hit the companies at the places they felt most depressed, the company towns. the war that would follow would have lasting reverberations. it would take weeks and months and sometimes even years for all of the loose ends of this
tragedy to play it out. the ludlow massacre to this state is controversial. only the last few decades has -- have seen people comfortable to talk about it. there were a lot of families on both sides and these communities, these are fairly small and tightknit communities. people had family members or friends on the other sides so this continued to be a divisive history. it was not something that people readily talked about. ludlow was part of a series of struggles and very violent conflict by which american workers managed to achieve significant gains.
even though these were massive defeats to the union, they played a small but important part in paving the way for a new deal era labor relations. and you policies in turn were really responsible for creating the american middle class. thanks to the labor movements, american workers by the mid-20th century work enjoying improved working conditions. i think at this point in the early 21st century, the labor movement in the united states has gotten so small. i think it is easy for many people to forget.
>> as of 2020, over half of the 14.3 million union members in the u.s. lived in just seven states, all located in the northeast and midwest. south carolina and north carolina had the lowest union membership. a look -- our look at the u.s. labor movement concludes with a visit to memphis where levan hundred african-american sanitation workers went on strike. now we take you to the national civil rights museum to hear about the events leading up to the strike and the role it played in bringing martin luther king jr. to memphis for the final time. >> the memphis sanitation strike was at a crossroads in the american civil rights story. memphis was a moderate city. it was moderate in other areas in the deep south. memphis was considered the midsouth but it was right on the banks of mississippi. african americans and whites
still lived in a pretty divisive segregated community. efrin american sanitation workers did not make the same as their white counterparts. there was a great amount of tension in the city of memphis in 1968. the workforce was about 70% african-american, 30% white. syndication -- sanitation workers would only make about one dollar per hour. you were given no other grievances. you were not able to be a driver on a truck. you were only able to write in the back of the cab. sanitation workers took this job because they felt it was going to be a steady job to have during this time. if you work 90 hours a week as an african american sanitation worker, you could receive government assistance. you could make a little over
$100 working $90 per hour. it was not a bright way for african-american men who were just trying to live and take care of their families. mr. jones went back to 1964 effortlessly and he fought to better the wages and conditions for memphis sanitation workers. men are killed in the back of a garbage truck on february the first, 1968. it was a thursday evening, these sanitation workers, mr. walker and mr. cole were around in east memphis. there is a large thunderstorm going on. black sanitation workers were unable to sit in the front of the cab.
to shelter themselves in the back of this truck to get out of the ring, they got in the back and the truck they were riding in had been already been told it was a faulty truck. a malfunction occurs and two men were crushed. the city of memphis only provided $5,000 checks -- $500 checks in the case of their debts. one of the bed was not even able to have a proper burial in memphis. he was taken to his hometown of tallahassee county, mississippi, 90 miles south of the city. this is what led to a strike of 1300 sanitation workers 11 days later. they wanted better wages, better -- they wanted to file for grievances such as pension, that
her pay, better work uniforms and to be treated with a little bit more dignity. the city of memphis just inaugurated mayor henry loeb. he was adamantly against doing this. that is when the strike decided -- started to take place. approximately 1300 sanitation workers struck against their employer, the city of memphis. that is when the official strike began. the response to the memphis sanitation strike was that with resistance, it was met with oppression. it was not a very welcoming term for people who supported a strike at this time. february 23, this happened in downtown memphis. hundreds were arrested and hospitalized. this really does not see the type of violence that happens
after dr. locke -- dr. martin the king junior returns on march 28, 1968. who he saw was the organizer of the sit in movement in the early part of the decade. he invited dr. king to come to memphis. he arrives on march 18 and he receives a wonderful reception at the nearby mason temple. he tells reverend abernathy and other aids that we are going to come back to memphis and march on behalf of the sanitation workers. that day is march the 28th, 1968. there is a war going on in the back of the march, just one hour after the march takes place. 16-year-old youths from south memphis.
dr. king is assassinated on thursday, april 4, 1968. immediately after his death, many began to see the very money increases,. it showcases to america that a nonviolent movement creates a violent response. of all the five political assassinations that occurred in the decade, dr. kings is the only one that resulted in violence and uproar. with the assassination of dr. king, the pillar of nonviolence
being slain on the balcony of an effort american hotel prompted other local lawmakers to fix this. 12 days later, the city of memphis reaches a strike resolution with the sanitation workers. they are given a very mine arrays but they are given better work conditions, better costumes. as of last year, the sanitation workers finally received a pension for their service with the city of memphis. sanitation workers in the city of memphis face a completely different experience than they would have 50 years ago. they are receiving pensions, better working wages and the opportunity for growth within the city of memphis. the legacy of the sanitation workers strike was to show that even after the declaration of independence that said all