The first meeting of the CF&I Employee Representation Plan, 1915. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. is on the ground, front center. Courtesy, Bessemer Historical Society.

The Rockefeller Employee Representation Plan at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company

In 1915, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company instituted an employee representation plan, better known now as a company union, in order to bring labor peace to the companies many coal fields. It did so at the behest of its chief stockholder, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who suffered many personal attacks for his role in the infamous Ludlow Massacre of 1914 (which killed 17 people). While most company unions were union avoidance scams, the fact that the company left exact transcripts of the meetings of management and the plan’s labor representatives suggests that this firm took this effort seriously. Indeed, Rockefeller claimed that this kind of organization would bring about permanent labor peace.

For a time, the plan worked. Scores of employee grievances got settled by the plan apparatus. Workers complaining about wages, ethnic and racial discrimination, working hours and other common labor problems filed grievances which got resolved. There would be labor/management relations problems deriving from the Rockefeller Plan throughout its history from 1915 and 1942.

Procedure for settlement of Rockefeller Plan grievances. Courtesy of the Bessemer Historical Society.


Jonathan Rees, Representation and Rebellion: The Rockefeller Plan at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, 1914-1942. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2010.