The shipments of ore to Colorado City did not increase sufficiently to permit the opening of the Colorado Mill. The hope that this mill could be used to rapidly employ the union strikers was therefore without fulfillment. It became apparent early that Manager MacNeill and the Colorado City Union interpreted the terms of their agreement differently. As fast as vacancies occurred the positions were offered by the company without regard to the kind of work or the wage, but were refused by the men unless given their former kind of work and former wage. The company was holding the agreement to mean simple reemployment, the men, to mean reinstatement. Further cause of irritation was the refusal of Manager MacNeill to consider a new wage schedule. He met the committee of mill men according to his agreement, but that was all.
DEPORTING UNION MEN TO KANSAS STATE LINE
The advisory board convened for its final sessions on May 23rd, and received statements from the Colorado Reduction and Refining Company and the Western Federation. The statement of the company set forth that there had been one hundred two applicants for work, of whom forty-two were refused and sixty offered employment. A detailed list was given of the refusals, with reasons therefor. Forty-seven of the sixty men to whom work had been offered refused it, and only thirteen accepted. Twenty-seven were offered positions at the same pay they had received before the strike, eight accepted, nineteen refused. Eleven were offered higher wages, three accepted, eight refused. Twenty-two were offered smaller wages, two accepted, twenty refused. Work had been refused in all cases where it did not give the man the same position that he occupied before the strike.1
The statement of the union took exception to many of the refusals of the company to employ men, and gave a detailed rebuttal to the statements made concerning them. It insisted that the agreement had been to reinstate the men in their old positions, and that the company had failed to keep its promise.2
After several days deliberation the board made a final report to the governor in which the conclusion was reached that the company had to the best of its ability carried out its promises.3 There is every evidence that this conclusion was a just one, so far as the letter of the agreement at least was concerned. The whole question was as to whether the company had agreed to reinstate, or simply to reemploy. Throughout the whole preceding series of conferences Manager MacNeill's position had been firm that he would take no step that would remove from his position a single man then in his employ, and a promise to reinstate the strikers must have meant the displacement of many. President Moyer in his report to the annual convention of the Federation in June states clearly that the proposition from Manager MacNeill which he finally accepted was to "take back" the striking men "without discrimination, if vacancies occur in the working force." and that Mr. MacNeill had just rejected a proposition offered by himself which included the "reinstatement" of the men.4 As to whether the company had not in reality discriminated by offering work in the most unacceptable way, and in refusing entirely to employ many of the men, the evidence is not so clear.
A month elapsed between the report of the commission and the second strike at Colorado City. No further men were employed by the Colorado Reduction and Refining Company, so the situation relative to the reemployment of the strikers developed no further. The union was dissatisfied however with the findings of the commission, and continued to declare that the company was violating both the spirit and letter of its promises, and to threaten another strike. The situation was further disturbed by the controversy over the question of wages. On May 1st. the Telluride and Portland Mills had agreed to the schedule submitted by the union, increasing the minimum wage from $1.80 to $2.25, and the continued refusal of Manager MacNeill to consider this schedule caused dissatisfaction to his employees, and also to the managers of the other mills. Manager Hugh Fullerton of the Telluride posted a notice on July 1st. to the effect that after July 5th wages would be reduced, and the minimum be $2.00 per day. This notice was removed upon the calling of the second strike.
A statement of the conditions cannot be complete without a word upon the status of eight-hour day legislation in Colorado at just this time. The state legislature in 1899 had passed an act limiting the labor day in mines, smelters, and reduction plants, to eight hours. The law was an almost verbatim copy of the eight-hour law of Utah, which had been declared constitutional by the supreme courts of the State of Utah, and of the United States, but notwithstanding this fact the Colorado Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. In 1902 a constitutional amendment was passed by popular vote commanding the legislature to pass an eight-hour act. But when the legislature convened in 1903 a powerful lobby appeared upon the scene. Conflicting bills were introduced, and loaded with a confusion of dispute-provoking amendments. The two houses could not agree upon a measure, and adjourned in April having accomplished nothing.
Upon the failure of the eight-hour legislation the Western Federation of Miners inaugurated a vigorous campaign of organization and strikes among the smelters of the state, to secure by force what apparently could not be gained by the ballot. The second strike was brewing in Colorado City. The eight hour day was not an issue there.5 But the Federation had decided upon a show of power, a trial of strength that would show that not with impunity could it be trifled with. The Cripple Creek District was its stronghold, the place for the most spectacular display, and there can be no question that these things had a powerful influence upon the executive officers of the Federation in bringing about the following strikes at Colorado City and Cripple Creek.
On July 3rd, a second strike was declared upon the Colorado Reduction and Refining Company at Colorado City. Only nine men responded to the call.6 Following the former tactics the men were called out from the mines in the Cripple Creek District on August 8th. But this time the Federation did not stop with the mines which were furnishing ore to the Colorado Reduction and Refining Company. The men were called out from all the mines of the district, with the exception only of a few small properties whose ores were being reduced by plants within the district. Thirty-five hundred men were affected, working in about 50 different mines.
The strike was called by the District Council of the Western Federation, in exercise of the general power given it months before the time of the first Colorado City difficulty. The district council was strongly under the influence of the executive board of the Federation ; it was the executive board that forced the action, and loath as the gentlemen composing this board have been to shoulder the responsibility, to them it belongs and to no others.7
There may be some doubt as to the opposition of the Cripple Creek miners to the first strike, but there can be none as to their opposition to the second. Loyally they obeyed the strike order of their organization and laid down their tools, but the vast majority, (many have put it as high as 90 per cent.) were unwilling to strike, and bewailed the haste with which they had voted away the control of their own labor.8
The strike at Cripple Creek was in support of the strike at Colorado City in which nine men were out. It tied up the industry of a whole section. The Western Federation of Miners had never had an organization in the Colorado City Mills, and the whole difficulty resulted from the attempt at organization there. Success had been achieved in two of the working plants, but not in the third. Ostensibly to force into line this third plant, which was running full capacity, 3,500 men were called from the mines. The Cripple Creek miners were to be used to club the mine owners into clubbing the Standard Mill to the wishes of the Western Federation of Miners. Comment on such an action is hardly necessary.9