( Colorado History the centennial state ). 1894 Cripple Creek Strike (Colorado History the Centennial The Cripple Creek strike of 1894 is arguably one of the most historic labor wars ever fought in the U.S. The war began because of a dispute between the miners union, commonly referred to as Western Federation of Miners (WFM) and the employers over poor, working conditions and increase in working hours without overtime pay (Russell and Cohn 6). It is reported that in January 1894, the owners of Cripple Creek, under the leadership of David Moffat, J.J Hagerman and Eben Smith, who had employed close to one third of its employees from Colorado area deciding to increase the duration of work to ten hours up from eight working hours, without catering for overtime payment. However, due to uproar from the miners, the employers decided to maintain the eight hour working time but reduced the wage rates to $2.50 down from $3.00 that they had been getting according to Russell and Cohn (11).
Nevertheless, on 1 February 1894, the owners of the mine changed their mines and began implementing the ten-hour working schedule, which prompted those Union members to protest for the reinstatement of the previous eight-hour working schedule. Nevertheless, after realizing that the employers were not ready to heed to their demand, a war ensued. The war was characterized by use of lethal weapons such as dynamites and firefights. The war lasted for five months with the Western Federation of Miners emerging victorious (Russell and Cohn 13).
This war has been very important so far as Colorado’s history is concerned. For instance, aftermath of the saw WFM emerged as a very powerful political entity in Colorado region (Jameson 15). This is after managing to draw many citizens and the miners to the group, which had been considered a militia by the government. It is reported that the WFM became so powerful and influenced the political destiny of Colorado as many politicians, as well as labor officials from the whole country, became associated with the group. As a result, Jameson notes that WFM emerged as a political force to reckon within the entire Rocky Mountain West (18).
Political pundits argue that the strike has ever since altered the political direction of Colorado (Suggs and George 23). For instance, the aftermath of the strike saw citizens of Colorado fault the Waite for siding with the WFM thereby promoting political instability and violence in the region. The reaction later led the defeat of the waite during the November 1894 polls thereby resulting in victory of Republican candidate, Albert McLntire (Jameson 4). It is said that the Populist Party has since not recovered from the effects of Cripple Creek unrest.
The aftermath of the Cripple Creek labor unrest also influenced greatly the region’s labor history and that of the US as a whole. For instance, it is reported that the defeat and subsequent collapse of the Leedville strike enabled the American federation of labor (AFL) to build a relationship that later emerged as a very powerful political force in the country. For instance, few years later after the unrest, in 1905, the WFM went ahead and launched a labor union christened the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) according to Suggs and George (36). This union is meant to advocate for worker’s rights at all levels. Even after its collapse, its influence is still being felt within Colorado and the US at large since they influence greatly on the activities of labor union throughout the state.
In conclusion, it is quite evident that the 1894 Cripple Creek strike has a lot of importance as far as the history of Colorado is concerned. This is because the strike has influenced hugely the political course as well as the activities of labor movements in the state and the US at large. Its impacts would certainly be felt for more centuries to come.
Jameson, Elizabeth. All That Glitters: Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois. 1998. Print.
Russell, Jesse, & Cohn, Ronald. Cripple Creek Miners Strike of 1894. New York, NY: Book on Demand. 2012. Print.
Suggs, Jr., & George G. Colorados War on Militant Unionism: James H. Peabody and the Western Federation of Miners. 2nd ed. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. 1991. Print.