Corporate Bureaucracy Stalling Railroad Freight In Upstate New York

Corporate bureaucracy is now stalling movement of railroad freight between Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties and the Port of Albany

We have been following, writing about and supporting railroads in the Adirondacks for quite a while. Mostly with stories about the “MYSTICAL” place called Tahawus. (Can’t call it the “fabled” because we also push the “FABLED RUTLAND MILK“). The NEWS ENTERPRISE has put together an excellent story on this PROBLEM. I’m going to follow along with the discussion and interject when I feel I can add something, Penney

QUEENSBURY — Corporate bureaucracy now stalling movement of railroad freight between Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties and the Port of Albany has prompted area officials to form a tri-county task force to expedite a solution


Warren County leaders said this week they and task force members will likely be asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to influence officials of several railroads that hold right-of-way privileges on various stretches of track between Warren County and the Port of Albany to cooperate and reach agreements so goods and materials produced in the three counties can move freely to national markets.

Penney comment: How about asking Senator Chuck Shumer for support too? He has been supportive in the past.

Warren County Economic Development Corp. President Ed Bartholomew talked of the delays that the Saratoga-North Creek Railway was experiencing in securing access to the port so it can move many thousands of tons of granite gravel from Tahawus downstate to potential customers. The “high friction” aggregate mined in Tahawus has been eyed for use in premium asphalt and concrete products produced in New Jersey and southern New York State.

Penney Comment: Tahawus is almost like a “national treasure”. Used to be owned by the US Government even.

Bartholomew also said that Finch Pruyn and Irving Tissue were interested in delivering shipments of their paper products via rail, but were stymied by the lack of freight agreements.

Penney comment: This is so great that all sorts of customers are returning to the rails. They got turned off by the “giant railroad” approach to business and end up paying more for trucks that cost more to them and to the environment.

He said that moving freight to the Port of Albany required cooperation from Canadian Pacific and CSX — who lease the railroad tracks between the two destinations — as well as from the entity controlling the access spur into the port.

Penney comment: THIS IS SUCH “BS”. What is different than the “Port of New York and New Jersey”? Let’s think “out of the box”. An active, publically funded authority already exists: Capitol District Transportation Authority. Put them over the port and negate the “old boys” agreement that does not seem to work.

Bartholomew said that efficient, inexpensive rail freight service was vital for attracting and retaining industry.

Penney comment: How right you are Mr. Bartholomew. Giving these three counties no access to the rest of the world other than the Northway is like telling them to “die on the vine”.

Solving these rail freight issues will help new and existing businesses,” he told Warren County supervisors attending the county Economic Growth & Development Committee meeting July 3. He noted that two wood-product manufacturers are seeking to locate in northern Warren County, and rail freight availability is critical to the success of their enterprises. Securing cost-efficient rail freight agreements would make local companies’ products more price-competitive in the world markets, Bartholomew added. One rail car can hold a volume of material that would require five tractor-trailer trucks to transport, he said, noting the financial savings and environmental benefits of rail transportation.

Bartholomew said that with an eye on solving obstacles to efficient transportation of materials and products, he was seeking grant funding for a study of rail freight issues and potential solutions.

Penney comment: Again, right on target Mr. Bartholomew. Sounds like Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer, who else? Where are the Congressmen and Senator Gillibrand? Out to lunch?

Besides the matter of corporate cooperation, another obstacle was the lack of available rail cars, and the need to upgrade railroad tracks for the considerable weight of freight, Bartholomew continued.

Penney comment: This rail car thing is a NATIONAL problem. Lot of it caused by “fracking oil”. Maybe time for more unique solutions like the State of Washington used for grain cars. North Dakota is going through lots of agony now.

Saratoga-North Creek Railway Operations Manager Justin Gonyo said July 8 that his company was currently negotiating contracts with Canadian Pacific and CSX, and the three firms have experienced good working relations. He added that his company was now involved in a project to upgrade tracks between Tahawus and Corinth.

Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Geraghty of Warrensburg said that establishing rail freight access was vital to the region’s economic sustainability and future prosperity. A former plant manager for International Paper in Corinth — with experience in arranging transportation of bulk products, Geraghty was asked to join the task force now in formation.

Geraghty predicted that Bartholomew would be effective in making headway in freight movement. Bartholomew serves on the state’s Capital Region Economic Development Council and has experience as a consultant to the state senate and to various legislators.

If there’s anyone who can get these problems solved it’s Ed,” Geraghty said. “We need to do everything we can to get freight moving by rail to Albany.”

Penney Comment: Mr. Bartholomew, looks like you are the “point man”. Anything we can do for you is “gratis”, we are located in France, but our manager is an American who is on top of this. Currently working on the All Aboard Florida thing.

Find out about Project and Fairpromise


It’s not just Hello Kitty: Japan’s character craze

We just did a story on “Hello Kitty” not being a cat. Along comes a follow up on Japan”s “Character Craze”

There are thousands, and they are ubiquitous: Long-time favorite Doraemon (who really is a cat) has a daily quiz in a national newspaper. Little monster Pikachu hosted a theme cafe in Tokyo this summer. Stress-relieving Rilakkuma (“relaxed bear”) dangles from teenage girls’ school bags.

Characters are not just for kids in Japan, but a part of business and social life. Some see Japan’s cute-craze, known as “kawaii,” as a sign of immaturity, but others say it’s rooted in a harmony-centered way of life that goes back to ancient animist traditions.

Japanese used to worship many gods, and portrayed ghosts as comical characters. In what is seen as the origin of Japanese manga, or comics, a set of 12th-century scroll paintings humorously portray frogs, rabbits and other animals in human activities, from sumo wrestling to temple worshipping.

The  Kumamon goofy “Black Bear” character originated in Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture, or state.

Kumamon the goofy black bear
Kumamon the goofy black bear


Funassyi appears regularly on TV and is releasing a CD from Universal Music Japan. The character reportedly earned 200 million yen ($2 million) last year. unofficially representing the city of Funabashi

funassi unofficially representing the city of Funabashi
funassi unofficially representing the city of Funabashi


Doraemon is NOT a third grade girl



Rilakkuma is very popular



See more pictures in the Albany Times Union

Hello Kitty and Doraemon now face hordes of newcomers, many launched by municipal governments to promote tourism and local products. Regular “character summits” choose a national favorite.

American Man Suspected of Fighting with Islamic State is Killed

An American man suspected of fighting alongside Islamic State militants who have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria to the alarm of the Baghdad government and its allies in the West has been killed in Syria, a U.S. official said. He was carrying an American Passport and $800 cash.

“We continue to use every tool we possess to disrupt and dissuade individuals from traveling abroad for violent jihad and to track and engage those who return,” Hayden said.”We were aware of U.S. Citizen Douglas McAuthur McCain’s presence in Syria and can confirm his death,” U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

Family members told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that McCain’s mother had been called by a State Department official to report that he had been killed in Syria over the weekend. The newspaper said the family had been concerned with McCain’s expressions of support of Islamic State militants, and the man’s uncle, Ken McCain, told CNN his nephew had converted to Islam from Christianity several years ago and traveled to the region via Turkey to fight as a jihadi.

That could place him among the dozens of U.S. citizens that Attorney General Eric Holder said in July were included in a cohort of roughly 7,000 foreign fighters that U.S. intelligence agencies estimate to be operating in Syria, out of roughly 23,000 violent extremists.

Can we compare to Americans fighting for Castro?

Castro Fighting Batista
Castro Fighting Batista


A friend of mine tells about how he and his teen-age friends wanted to go to Cuba in the late 1950’s to fight for Castro. All a lot of talk. Nobody even had a passport. Not like today when kids took trips with their parents to foreign countries. Then nobody had any money either. Castro didn’t either, so he could not recruit like the islamists do. The Batista Cuban government they were trying to overthrow  was rotten and corrupt, but Batista had US support. The island was “mob controlled”. Easy to dislike. My friend and his contemporaries knew all about “The Mob” in the US. They rode around in Cadillacs with two “soldiers” in the front seat. They took “protection” money from small stores, until WalMart did away with small stores.

He still is upset by the continuing US treatment of Cuba. Wasn’t Obama going to correct the situation?????

Let’s look at the early Cuba timeline

Aug 13 1926: Fidel Castro Ruz born in Biran, Eastern Cuba.

July 26 1953: Castro launches armed struggle against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. But attack on Moncada barracks fails.

Sept 1953: Castro is sentenced to fifteen years, making famous ‘history will absolve me’ speech from the dock.

May 1955: Batista grants amnesty to Castro, who goes to Mexico to plot invasion of Cuba.

Dec 2 1956: Castro and 82 other rebels land at Playa Las Coloradas in Granma yacht. Cuban army easily outnumbers and rout rebels, but survivors take refuge in Sierra Maestra mountains and launch guerrilla war.

Dec 28 1958: Fall of Santa Clara, after rebel attack led by Che Guevara. Batista troops end military resistance.

Jan 1 1959: Batista flees to Dominican Republic as the rebels take power.

Jan 8 1959: Castro enters Havana following triumphant procession through island from east of Cuba.

Oct 19 1960: United States begins partial economic embargo.

Jan 3 1961: Washington breaks off diplomatic relations with Cuba.

April 16 1961: Castro declares Cuba a socialist state.

April 19 1961: Bay of Pigs invasion. CIA-backed Cuban exiles are defeated.

Feb 7 1962: United States imposes full trade embargo on Cuba.

Oct 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis. After thirteen day standoff, Russians withdraw missiles from Cuba.

Oct 9 1967: Che Guevara killed by Bolivian troops seeking to emulate Cuban-style revolution in South America.



“Hello Kitty” not a cat, has never been: We Have Been Deceived

Hello Kitty is not a cat, the company behind Japan’s global icon of cute insisted, despite an uproar from Internet users who spluttered: “But she’s got whiskers!”

When is a cat not a cat? When it’s Hello Kitty, apparently.


We’re not really sure how to feel about this revelation. Clearly this character has cat ears and whiskers, but it has just come to light that Hello Kitty is in fact a British schoolgirl in the third grade.

The moon-faced creation that adorns everything from pencil cases to pyjamas the world over is, in fact, human.

“Hello Kitty” is a cheerful and happy little girl with a heart of gold,” brand owner Sanrio says on its website.

The shocking revelation came to light when a Hawaii-based academic specialising in the epitome of “kawaii” (“cute” in Japanese) asked Sanrio to fact-check captions for an exhibition she was curating to mark the 40th anniversary of Hello Kitty

Christine Yano, an anthropologist from the University of Hawaii, told the Los Angeles Times that she “was corrected — very firmly” by Sanrio that Kitty was not a cat.

“That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show,” the paper quoted her as saying.

“Hello Kitty” is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature.”

And indeed, an AFP enquiry as to the status — feline or otherwise — of one of Japan’s most famous exports confirmed her non-cat identity.

“It is a 100-percent personified character,” a Sanrio spokesman told AFP in Tokyo. “The design takes the motif of a cat, but there is no element of a cat in Hello Kitty’s setting.”

Her life story has always been there, the spokesman said, adding the personification is meant to make her fans feel closer to the character “as a friend”.

Web users were agog at the news.

“Hello Kitty is not actually a cat. MIND BLOWN”, tweeted @killedbydying

“‘Sanrio confirms that Hello Kitty is NOT a cat.’ One of the many reasons why I have trust issues”, wrote @eisakuivan

“So Hello Kitty isn’t a cat? Everything I know is a lie,” said @nymbc

Asked about the worldwide reaction to the shock revelation that Hello Kitty is not a cat, the Sanrio spokesman offered: “I don’t think anyone in Japan found it surprising.”

“There is an explanation we have made the whole time, and I think that’s how people have understood it.”

A straw poll of Japanese people within the AFP Tokyo bureau found that not to be the case, however.

The Sanrio spokesman explained that Kitty and her family were given no specific nationality but were designed to be living in Britain, because many girls in Japan had strong admiration for the Western lifestyle in the 1970s.

Ever since the mouthless white character first appeared in 1974 on a coin purse in Japan, she has graced tens of thousands of products, from handbags to aircraft, in some 130 countries.

But just remember: she’s not a cat.

Now, let’s stand up for real cats. How would you like it if you were a cat and people kept telling you you looked like a third-grade kid? Cats are such wonderful animals.

Unfortunately, not all cats are so lucky and get adopted by third graders with no mouth. Many need help and good shelters are slim.

 Let’s all get together and help a good shelter:

Let’s help Refuge les Chamours in Ste-Béatrix, Quebec

On the  internet, go to you can click on the PayPal button or on “faire un donne”

Easy to give to them. Don’t need to know a word of French.

Mail instead?

Refuge les Chamours 100 de la Colline Ste-Béatrix, J0K1Y0

Québec, Canada

Looking for a life outside FACEBOOK? Look to FAIRPROMISE and Fairpromise

Last Friday in August Developments in Florida Rail

Keeping out tradition of going over developments with All Aboard Florida, Florida East Coast Railway and Tri-Rail. One would think end of August would be quiet, but no, we have some good stories for you.

The Miami Herald has a big story “Work begins — finally — on Miami-to-Orlando fast train”

Preliminary work has begun for construction of a $2.5 billion express passenger train between Miami and Orlando.

In preparation for the project, 35,000 linear feet of new steel rails have been laid on the ground alongside existing freight train tracks at two sites in Palm Beach County just west of North Dixie Highway in Boca Raton.

Parking lots that for years were packed with vehicles next to the Miami-Dade County Hall building and Metrorail tracks in downtown Miami are now empty, closed for coming construction of the train’s Miami station.

The shuttered parking lots and the new steel rails mark the first physical work on the future service since the ambitious project was announced in March 2012.

All Aboard Florida, as the project is called, is expected to begin operations in two phases: first between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2016 and then between West Palm Beach and Orlando in 2017.

It won’t be as fast as the French TGV, but at 125 mph, it won’t loaf along either. Details of the trainsets are not finalized, but they will be Made In U.S.A.

First passenger trains since the 1960’s along the East Coast that was originally developed by Henry Flagler.

Four good pictures and a recap of the grade crossings and other issues.

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Florida Governor Rick Scott

Next we have even more All Aboard Florida opponents who want ‘open and honest’ response from Governor Scott

The story in TCPalm says this group will get their “moment in the Sun” with Scott’s staff. CARE FL — an acronym for Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida — is all from “upscale” communities in Palm Beach County. Concerns about property values and blocked access.

TriRail Train
TriRail Train


A plan to expand Tri-Rail service would deliver commuters smack in the center of downtowns from West Palm Beach to Miami. A proposed Tri-Rail service, called the “Coastal Link,” would use the train tracks running through coastal downtown communities such as West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. The trains would be added to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks that run along Dixie Highway, but would not replace Tri-Rail service on the tracks along Interstate 95.


The Sun-Sentinal has written an expanded article that answers a lot of our questions.

Laying the groundwork for the “Coastal Link” has been underway for the last few years. But plenty of planning, construction and funding still has to happen. Consider:

Fees to use the tracks are being negotiated between Tri-Rail and the Florida East Coast Railroad, which owns the coastal tracks.

The estimated cost to get Tri-Rail Coastal Link started is between $720 and $800 million. That money would cover stations, a third track, and bridge improvements. A final cost will be nailed down after the Florida Department of Transportation‘s two-year study is complete.

Money to run the trains still has to be found. An estimated $100 million would be needed annually. Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties would have to pitch in, and possibly some cities as well.

Right now, Tri-Rail service starts and ends north of West Palm Beach. Using the coastal tracks, Tri-Rail would reach to Jupiter and connect some 28 coastal communities by train.

The new Tri-Rail system would then have three main routes:

The red line would run from Mangonia Park to downtown Miami with trains traveling on the western tracks Tri-Rail currently uses and switching over at Pompano Beach to the coastal tracks.

The blue line would run from Boca Raton to Miami International Airport, using the same route Tri-Rail uses now.

The green line would run from Jupiter to downtown Fort Lauderdale on the coastal tracks.

Trains would run every 30 minutes or every hour. About 20 to 22 stations are being considered for the service.

The new service would provide people with access to more entertainment and recreation options and would be more than a way “just to get to work,” said Amie Goddeau, a mobility development manager for the state’s transportation department.

If All Aboard Florida, the high-speed rail between Miami and Orlando, continues as planned, the private company will add a second track to the coastal line, which Tri-Rail trains could also use. Even with that second track, a third track also may be built to prevent train traffic jams.

Earlier this year, Tri-Rail and All Aboard Florida reached an agreement on how the two services would operate. Basically, they agreed not to compete with each other, leaving Tri-Rail as the local commuter service and All Aboard Florida as a limited-stop service.

Two construction projects critical to Tri-Rail’s coastal service are in the works. Work on two additional connections that link the coastal railroad to the tracks near I-95 should begin within a year. Those connections would allow Tri-Rail trains to travel between the two railways.

One connection is north of downtown West Palm Beach at 25th Street. The other connection is in Miami.

The three counties are looking at various ways to come up with the money, including using a transportation sales tax, gas tax or rental car surcharge.

Anybody remember this? “A collection of articles about Railroads and Transit in Florida. Tri-Rail was created to head-off an often-quoted scenario in which I-95 would have to be widened to 44 lanes to handle increased traffic expected along certain stretches by the year 2020.”

2014-15 Utica Comets Schedule Released

The Utica Comets have their schedule in place!

The second season of Comets hockey will begin with a weekend series in Toronto when they face the Marlies on Saturday, Oct. 11 and Sunday, Oct. 12..

Opening weekend in Utica will begin with a contest on Wednesday, Oct. 22 against the Adirondack Flames at 7:35 p.m. It will continue with a Friday night affair against the San Antonio Rampage on Oct. 24 and a finish off on Saturday, Oct. 25 with the Toronto Marlies in town.

Utica will once again have a fan-friendly schedule with 24 of their 38 home games occurring on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  Comets fans will have an opportunity to see 16 different AHL teams play against the Comets this season, including 13 of the other 14 teams in the Western Conference.

Read more great comments on their schedule for 2014-15

Comets Coach Travis Green
Comets Coach Travis Green

The 2014-15 American Hockey League regular-season schedule is out, and Utica Comets coach Travis Green is excited.

“I like it,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of say over what you get, but, on first glance, I think it’s a good schedule for us.”

Read more of his comments in Matt Becker’s column in the Utica OD

Kennedy Center Rome NY
Kennedy Center Rome NY

The Utica Comets announced that the team will host the Adirondack Flames in a preseason game at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, at Kennedy Arena.

Tickets are $5, and will go on sale at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at the arena’s box office. There will be 700 tickets available. All proceeds will go to Kennedy Arena.

This is the second straight year that the Comets have hosted Adirondack in a preseason game. Last year, Adirondack was the AHL franchise for the Philadelphia Flyers. That team moved to Allentown in the offseason. This season, Adirondack is affiliated with the Calgary Flames.

“Last year’s preseason game was such a tremendous success, and we received such strong support from the Rome community all season long,” Comets President Rob Esche said in a news release. “Being able to host a preseason game in Rome, give back to the community and showcase our players in their beautiful facility is the perfect fit for our organization. “

The teams will play again the next night at the Glens Falls Civic Center.


Opportunities In Your Supply Chain

Recently Scott Koegler published an article on “Fixing Your Supply Chain” in which he quoted the “Top Five Opportunities In Your Supply Chain” per OPS Rules Management Consultants. He then “threw down the gauntlet” for others to list their own Top 5, and see if these match. I am accepting the challenge!

Here is my game plan: I’m going to identify and add other vendors who are good at fixing your supply chain and see what THEIR opportunities might be. Then I will pick MY top 5 and tell you why I picked them.

Conference Crashing: The Latest Trend in Networking

Agile entrepreneurs have make “conference crashing” a trend. No more thousands spent on big shows! Instead, company founders instead “network” the lobby. Hey, these start-ups don’t have much funding. Priorities are finding clients and partners; both of which are found at these big shows. They save however they can.

Gee, we tried the same thing: Just got through reading about the Rail Trends Conference in New York City on November 20 and 21 in New York City. WOW it sounds fantastic! Ran into the bosses office (well, actually ran over to his table, since we all work out of a seaside restaurant). Told him I really wanted to go and would get a lot out of it. He says: “No KC, we don’t have it in the budget. Go back to your table and write a good story about it and maybe they will send you a Press Pass”.

No comparison of the panels and videos to meeting someone someone in the lobby who can arrange an important meeting. These folks are crying for funding, face-time, and learning the ropes and maybe they can find someone who is willing to help. Just think of it: venture capitalists, experienced executives, and other key folks in their field all in one place. Those one-on-one mini-meetings are where the beef is.

Philadelphia Proposal: Bring Amtrak Trains to Center City

Recently there was an article in PhillyMag about bringing Amtrak into the Center City, using the existing tunnel. It’s the easiest thing in the world to board an Amtrak train in Philly and be in New York barely an hour later. Would it be an even better process if Philadelphians could board that train in Center City? There is already a tunnel , Why not use it?

It goes from 30th Street Station to Suburban and Market Street stations and is  used by SEPTA. Just let a couple of Amtrak trains per hour use that tunnel, he says, and the results might be startling:
Transit expert Bob Previdi thinks so “Having Amtrak operating in the Center City Tunnel would not only be good for business and tourism, it could also make the housing stock of Philadelphia and its suburbs more commutable to NYC. Most people in Philadelphia do not understand just how bad commuting distances are in in NYC and what opportunities there are to attract home buyers. For example, 14,000 cars a day park at the Long Island Rail Road’s Ronkonkoma Station in Suffolk County to take one hour and 20 minute train ride to/from Penn Station each way! Combine the long trek with a New York State tax rate of nearly 9 percent and even with the high monthly ticket fee of Amtrak we can still promote living in Pennsylvania as a real value.”

There’s a lot that’s appealing about this idea. 30th Street Station, grand though it is, is across the river from the heart of the city.

But in saying that the only thing standing in the way of operating Amtrak service through the Commuter Tunnel is the political will to bring the passenger and freight railroads together to implement the through-tunnel service.
Philadelphia Market East Station
Philadelphia Market East Station
The next day, PhillyMag had another article about how you can’t do it. Amtrak service through the Commuter Tunnel sounds like a great idea. But there’s this little engineering issue …

The problem with the proposal is this: Once Amtrak trains would exit the Commuter Tunnel’s east portal, there would be no way for them to get back to the tracks heading to New York Penn Station. That’s because the tracks feeding the tunnel from the north belonged to the Reading Railroad, and the Reading had no physical connections to its crosstown rival, the Pennsylvania.

The Reading did operate its own Philadelphia-New York trains, to be sure. They followed the route of what’s now SEPTA’s West Trenton Line and used the Jersey Central to reach a terminal in Jersey City, where passengers could catch ferries to Lower Manhattan.

The Jersey Central and the Jersey City train station are both gone. And even if a new terminal were built there, it would simply trade inconvenience in New York for inconvenience in Philadelphia.

A new, high-speed connection would have to be built to allow Amtrak Northeast Regional trains to run between Washington and New York via “Philadelphia City Hall.” And that would cost some money and require some land.

The good news is that there is a place where such a connection could be built. It’s near Woodbourne station on the West Trenton line. South of this station, the West Trenton line tracks pass under the former Pennsylvania Railroad Trenton Cutoff, which connects with the main Northeast Corridor line at Morrisville, just across the Delaware from Trenton. A two-track flyover there from south of the crossover to east of it would allow for the through Commuter Tunnel service.  Build that, and restore the catenary from the junction to Morrisville, and we’re in business.

It would cost less to build this than it would to build the north-south tunnel under Philadelphia with stations at the airport and Market East.


Read more about railroads and transit in Philadelphia. Read more about tourism in Philadelphia.

Have You Ever Heard Of The Ludlow Massacre? You Might Be Shocked When You See What Happened.

A friend recently sent  me a link to both a video and a story on an important event in American Labor History.  Not only that, it has music from one of my favorite singers: Woody Guthrie’s tribute to the good people who fought in the battles of Ludlow to help make a better tomorrow for everyone.

100 years ago, the Rocky Mountains were the source of a vast supply of coal. At its peak, it employed 16,000 people and accounted for 10% of all employed workers in the state of Colorado. It was dangerous work; in just 1913 alone, the mines claimed the lives of over 100 people. There were laws in place that were supposed to protect workers, but largely, management ignored those, which led to Colorado having double the on-the-job fatality rate of any other mining state.

It was a time of company towns, when all real estate, housing, doctors, and grocery stores were owned by the coal companies themselves, which led to the suppression of dissent as well as overinflated prices and an extreme dependence on the coal companies for everything that made life livable. In some of these, workers couldn’t even leave town, and armed guards made sure they didn’t. Also, if any miner or his family began to air grievances, they might find themselves evicted and run out of town.

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had been organizing for many years in the area, and this particular company, Colorado Fuel and Iron, was one of the biggest in the West — and was owned by the Rockefeller family, notoriously anti-union.

Put all this together, and it was a powder keg.

When a strike was called in 1913, the coal company evicted all the miners from their company homes, and they moved to tent villages on leased land set up by the UMWA. Company-hired guards (aka “goons”) and members of the Colorado National Guard would drive by the tent villages and randomly shoot into the tents, leading the strikers to dig holes under their tents and the wooden beams that supported them.

Why did the union call for a strike? The workers wanted: (1) Recognition of the union as bargaining agent;  (2) An increase in tonnage rates (equivalent to a 10% wage increase); (3) Enforcement of the eight-hour work day; (4)Payment for “dead work” that usually wasn’t compensated, such as laying coal car tracks; (5)The job known as “Weight-checkmen” to be elected by workers. This was to keep company weightmen honest so the workers got paid for their true work; (6)The right to use any store rather than just the company store, and choose their own houses and doctors; (7) Strict enforcement of Colorado’s laws, especially mine safety laws.,

Please go ahead and watch the movie. I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Now that you know one of my favorite singers, let me introduce you to my favorite labor leader: John L. Lewis


Harry Truman and John L. Lewis
Harry Truman and John L. Lewis

(Picture above) Creation of the UMWA Welfare Fund, May 29, 1946. Pictured seated from left are President Harry Truman, Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug and Lewis.

In 1948 when there was a coal strike, Harry Truman threatened to take over the nation’s railroads. Coal-burning locomotives were restricted to 60% of their normal mileage. Even with diesel locomotives running around the clock, rail traffic clogged up. The takeover didn’t happen. It all involved Harry Truman and John L. Lewis.

John L. Lewis was president of the United Mine Workers Union from 1920-1960. He was a giant among American leaders in the first half of the twentieth century, regularly advising presidents and challenging America’s corporate leaders. His work to organize the country’s industrial workers through the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s helped raise living standards for millions of American families.

Most impressive picture I have ever seen ANYWHERE is a 1940 poster of John L. Lewis at the Carbondale (Pennsylvania) historic society. The huge picture is at the top of a flight of stairs and IT IS AWSOME! In 1940, Lewis had considered running for President.

See a great biography of John L. Lewis on the AFL-CIO WebSite.

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