Frontier Diary | PostIndependent.com
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Frontier Diary

Willa SoncartyRegistrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietyIn 1903, the Midland Mine at Sunlight closed due to a strike. The striking miners demanded a return to a previous wage scale and union recognition. The strike lasted five months, with the workers returning to work without concession from the owners, the Rocky Mountain Fuel Co.
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On July 4, 1902, an arsonist set fire to the Midland coal mine at Sunlight. The extensive blaze closed two sections of the mine. The fire would only be a precursor to the troubles coming to the Sunlight coal camp.Nationally, labor conflicts were headlines. In the eastern part of the United States, anthracite coal miners had gone out on strike on May 2, 1902, pushing for better wages, an eight-hour work day, and union recognition. An arbitration commission established by President Theodore Roosevelt ended the strike on Oct. 23, 1902. Ultimately, the eastern coal miners won a wage increase and a nine-hour work day.These same disputes over wages, length of work day and union recognition brewed at Sunlight in early 1903 when the Rocky Mountain Fuel Co., owners of the Midland Mine, reduced workers’ wages by 35 percent. On Feb. 18, 1903, the miners struck. They demanded a return to the old wage scale and union recognition. Both sides prepared for a lengthy shutdown.In late May 1903, arbitration failed to reopen the mine, with union recognition as the sticking point. Consequently, nonunion workers were hired to resume the production of coal at Sunlight. Striking miners who had constructed cabins on the company’s property were ordered to leave. Although Sunlight was peaceful, three deputy sheriffs patrolled the camp.On July 15, 1903, the striking miners returned to work. They received no wage increase and no union recognition. Additionally, it would take months before all workers would be re-employed and production back to full capacity.The mine owners had won the battle. However, this same battle was only to begin in other coal camps. Next week, strikes are initiated in other camps, explosions rock the town of New Castle, and a famous union organizer visits the Roaring Fork Valley.”Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


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