Supplementing my conversation with you yesterday on the Colorado strike situation, I desire to make the following statement:I interviewed representatives of miners and operators and was unable to find a mutual basis of settlement. The miners were willing to submit the entire subject matter to arbitration. The operators declined to do so. The only thing that the operators were willing to concede was that hereafter they would obey the laws of the State of Colorado relative to mining and mine labor. The miners declined to accept that as a basis of settlement, on the grounds that to agree to obey the laws was no concession whatever. The strike still continues.
There were approximately 13,000 coal miners in the State of Colorado. Of that number 3,000 are said to have left the state since the strike began. About 2,000 have been working in what is known as the northern coal fields, having been employed there as strike breakers in the strike that began three and one–half years ago. Very few of them engaged in the present strike. Of the balance, 90% to 95% came on strike. About 5% of that number have returned to work. The balance are still on strike.
Strike breakers are being imported by the coal companies, some of them from other states. The miners allege that these importations are secured under the pretense that no strike exists. The operators deny that allegation. The situation is serious. A condition of guerilla warfare exists and many people have been killed. Each side places the responsibility upon the other. It is freely asserted amongst citizens of Colorado other than those engaged in mining that a feudal system exists in these coal fields, sometimes benevolent and sometimes otherwise; that the power of the coal companies has been absolute in those camps and so great that it has dominated not only the industrial but the political and social conditions of the mining communities; that during the strike period men are frequently interfered with in their free access to the post offices which are usually located on coal company property; and that armed guards have been employed by the companies to coerce and intimidate the workers; all of which is vigourously denied by the coal companies. It is also alleged that the miners have bought large numbers of fire arms. Some of the miners admit the purchase of fire arms and assert that they have purchased them solely for the purpose of defending themselves and their homes against the armed guards of the coal companies.
It seems to me that the situation is so grave that it ought to be investigated by a special committee of Congress, which will have full authority to send for persons and papers, administer oaths, and take such other action as may be necessary to get to the facts and give them to the public.