The cemetery lies just outside the city limits.
This is how American workers of today “honor” working class heroes who gave their lives for future generations of workers: a nearly forgotten shrine to union mine workers & organizers from Illinois. Many were murdered by the mine bosses for the ‘crime’ of organizing their fellow workers to fight for their rights. The crude but eloquent lettering on the medallion above the entrance reads: “RESTING PLACE OF GOOD UNION PEOPLE”
Many of the men and women buried here were immigrants from eastern Europe. Far from home, they worked and fought for a better life for their children – and your children.
In spite of slaving in the coal mines for as many as 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, many miners could not afford to bury their loved ones when they died, so they formed burial societies to defray those inevitable expenses when they arose, often suddenly. This headstone was home-made by a grieving family that couldn’t afford to buy one.
The monument in the foreground commemorates the “The Virden Massacre” (also known as “The Battle of Virden”) which took place on October 12, 1898; the larger memorial the background to the left is the Mother Jones Memorial.
“The Battle of Virden” pitted armed union coal miners against hired coal company thugs trying to bring a trainload of African-Americans from Alabama to scab on the strike taking place at the Chicago-Virden Coal Company in Virden, IL. When the miners refused to let the trainload of scabs disembark at the station the company goons opened fire on the miners, killing 8 and wounding 40. Of the company goons, 4 were killed and 5 wounded; one of the prospective scabs on the train was seriously injured as well. Once the black miners found out that the “jobs” they had been offered required them to scab on a strike, they refused to accept the work. The costly victory of the miners won union recognition for the United Mineworkers of America throughout the Illinois coalfields.
The Mother Jones Memorial, absurdly flanked by the flag of the US capitalist class that tried so hard to drown the US union movement in blood. The sellout “labor lieutenants of capital” running the bureaucracy of today’s AFL-CIO spends tens of millions on electing worthless Wall St. sock puppets like Barack Obama president, but “can’t afford” to maintain this shrine to the militant founders of the United Mineworkers of America who gave their lives for the trade union movement.
These are the names of unionists and union organizers for the Progressive Miners of America who were ordered to be assassinated by the capitalist class of the United States for the “crime” of fighting for workers rights. The PMU was organized in 1932 in Gillespie, Illinois in opposition to United Mine Workers President John L. Lewis’ betrayal of the miners in which Lewis took the side of the mine operators against his own union and negotiated a pay cut for UMWA members from $6.10 a day to $5.00. The new union, dedicated to more democratic internal functioning in opposition to the high-handed bureaucratic methods of the UMWA bureaucracy, was attacked by the US Government and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s new “National Labor Board”, with John L. Lewis installed as one of the three pro-capitalist labor bureaucrats on the Board.
[To Be Continued] IWPCHI