Sunday, April 29, 2018

Ludlow Massacre's martyr, labor unionist Louis Tikas, to be honored in Colorado

104 years since his murder the legendary Greek American labor unionist and a leading figure of the 1913-1914 Colorado coal strike, Louis Tikas, will be honored in the United States. More specifically, according to website, a statue of Tikas will be unveiled during a ceremony in Trinidad, Colorado on June 23, 2018. 

Louis Tikas, born Elias Anastasiou Spantidakis in 1886 in Loutra, Crete, had been a prominent labor union organizer of the Ludlow camp during the 14-month coal miners strike in southern Colorado. Since 1912, Tikas had been an organizer for the United Mine Workers of America. 

He participated actively in organizing coal miners strike against the Colorado Fuel and Iron company, a large steel concentration owned by John D. Rockefeller Jr. The strike was organized by the United Mine Workers of America on September 1913, after the company rejected seven basic demands set by the labor unionists. 

In order to protect the interests of Rockefeller and other businessmen, the then governor of Colorado Elias M. Ammons called in the Colorado National Guard to take action against the striking workers. The bloodiest event of the strike took place on April 14, 1914, when 19 people, including 2 women and 11 children, were massacred by the National Guard at the Ludlow camp. Louis Tikas was shot and killed on that day.

Prominent historian Howard Zinn has described the Ludlow Massacre as "the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history". The incident had created public outcry in the United States, forcing the then U.S. House Committee on Mines and Mining to investigate the circumstances under which the massacre took place. The report produced by the Committee played a significant role in promoting child labor laws and and eight-hour work day.

Louis Tikas, 30 years old at the time of his death, remained in history as an important pioneer of the U.S. labor movement in the early 20th century. American labor union leader and socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs characterized Tikas as a "hero and martyr", a "lion-hearted Greek" who "made Ludlow holy as Jesus Christ made Cavalry".

"In this tragic hour Louis Tikas measured up to the supreme stature of his noble manhood. He knew his time had come and with a smile upon his lips and without a tremor in his sinews, he faced his cruel fate. He asked no quarter for himself, but only begged that mothers and babes be spared; and with this touching plea upon his lips and the love of his people in his soul and beaming from his eyes, he was struck down by the hired assassins of the Arch-Pharisee and passed to martyrdom and immortality", wrote Eugene V. Debs for the legendary labor unionist in 1915. 

The life Louis Tikas and the strike of coal miners have been the major subjects of at least two documentaries: In the 2014 production "Palikari: Louis Tikas and the Ladlow Massacre", directed by Nikos Ventouras and in 2016, by Greek filmaker Leonidas Vardaros who produced a documentary dedicated to Ludlow's striking workers under the title "Ludlow, Greek Americans in the Colorado coal war". 

In 1944, singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie wrote the song "Ludlow Massacre", dedicated to the 1914 events: