It may sound a little presumptuous, but here is my "mini-course"  in Community Organization and related dimensions -- based on 50 years of organizing in many situations and in many parts of America "north of Mexico" :  http://www.hunterbear.org/my_combined_community_organizing.htm

COPPER STRIKE IN THE SOUTHWEST:  ITS SAD "RESOLUTION"  [THE STEEL UNION, ASARCO AND THE OLD MINE-MILL [HUNTER BEAR  NOVEMBER 16 2005  -- WITH LESSONS AND LABOR CHALLENGES THAT CRY OUT [HUNTER BEAR  POSTED 11/17/05]

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:  THE ASARCO STRIKE IN THE UNITED STATES SOUTHWEST

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:

Only the most creative verbal alchemy could seek to transform the
"resolution" of this 130 day strike  against ASARCO into a victory for
Labor. The struggle, initially involving 1500 copper workers, mostly in
Arizona with one unit at Amarillo Texas, was marked by some worker
defections but about 1400 remained at its conclusion. All of this is in the
context of on-going, relatively high prices for copper which existed at the
strike's outset [about $1.54 per pound] and which are  currently
characterized by one key ASARCO spokesperson as "unprecedented high copper
prices": [it fluctuates but a few days ago was fairly steady at $1.90 per
pound.] The majority of copper workers at ASARCO are represented by
United Steelworkers of America, in old and traditional Mine-Mill country
 -- and other workers mostly by various
crafts.

The price of copper may be nicely up these days but the copper workers are
not going to get even a real thin slice of that juicy pie.

The historically traditional union for copper workers in North America --
and metal miners and related dimensions generally -- was Mine-Mill [ the
International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers]:  characterized
consistently by much rank and file democracy, militancy, homegrown
radicalism.  In 1967, a generation of multi-faceted red-baiting attacks from
the mining bosses and the witch-hunting federal governments in both the U.S.
and Canada, from raiding unions such as USWA and gaggles of "vigilantes,"
forced the merger of Mine-Mill with its most vicious Labor foe:  the Steel
Union.  From that point on, intra-union rank and file democracy for metal
mine workers was frequently an early-on victim.  [See here attached,
pertinent material from our Lair of Hunterbear website.]

Here is a fairly comprehensive assessment by Mineweb with the only brand new
piece being that the bankruptcy judge has just approved the "settlement"
with ASARCO.  After that, I have the official position of Local 937.

Asarco Strike Ends, Unions Back on the Job
      Dorothy Kosich
      '15-NOV-05 05:00'


     RENO--(Mineweb.com) After a four-month long strike and with copper
prices at record highs, workers are expected to return to Asarco's U.S.
operations today.

      The United Steelworkers (USW) Monday said its members at six Arizona
copper mining, smelting, refining and concentrating facilities owned by
Asarco, LLC, ratified contracts over the weekend to end strikes. Members of
seven other Asarco unions also approved the contract covering more than 80%
of the company's 1,500 employees.

      The newly ratified contracts will extend until December 31, 2006, all
the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreements that were
in effect when the strike began last July. The unions also won an
"successorship" clause that will require any potential buyer of all or part
of the Asarco facilities to recognize the unions and to negotiate a labor
agreement prior to completing a sale.

      However, a University of Arizona economics professor specializing in
labor relations told the Arizona Star that the clause may be meaningless
because the bankruptcy judge can nullify it.

      Asarco, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, had filed for Chapter 11
bankruptcy protection in August. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard Schmidt of
the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi Monday approved the
agreement between Asarco and the unions.

      In a recent news release, Asarco General Counsel Doug McAllister said,
"the agreement will allow the company to increase copper production during
this time of unprecedented high copper prices. This settlement will allow us
to focus on the task before us--a successful reorganization. We look forward
to working with all our constituencies, including our labor unions, so that
the company can emerge from bankruptcy on a sound financial footing, capable
of competing over the long term."

      By the time the battle had ended, Asarco President and CEO Daniel
Tellechea had resigned, and the company had declared bankruptcy. Asarco
entered into $75 million debtor-in-possession financial arrangement with the
CIT Group/Business Credit on October 27, 2005.

      Asarco creditors toured the company's operations last week and met in
Phoenix. Terry Bonds, District 12 Supervisor for the USW, told the Arizona
news media that he believes no agreement would have been reached with the
unions had Asarco not declared bankruptcy. "If Asarco was still under
Grupo's control, we would still be nowhere," he declared.

      In a statement issued Monday, Bonds said, "We must now focus on
getting back to work and returning Asarco to profitability. ...The Creditors
Committee recognized that the way back to profitability is for our members
to be back to work. We are grateful for the role the Creditors Committee
played in convincing Asarco to negotiate a fair and equitable agreement and
get our members back to work." Bonds said he believes the company will be
able to take advantage of the current boom in the copper market worldwide
with its regular workforce intact.

------------------------------------------------------

From Local 937, USWA, initially a Mine Mill local -- now with an amalgamated
structure]


"Once accepted by the Judge, the new agreement effectively extends the 2001
agreement for our 'Old ASARCO' group and the 2002 agreement of the 'Ray
Mines' group untill December 31, 2006. Wages, pension details and health
insurance remain the same - without the concessions demanded by the company.
The return to work agreement also contains the section 1113 and 1114
protections for the worker and retiree contracts and benefits and a
succesorship clause to protect workers and retiree benefits if units are
sold to other companies as a result of the company bankruptcy.

Among the last details worked out between representative of the Union, the
unsecured creditors committee and the company late Moday evening is a clause
making all strike time count as continuous service for all purposes
including pension service accrual."

FROM LAIR OF HUNTER BEAR WEBSITE:  THE OLD MINE MILL UNION

Note by Hunter Bear:  We have a great deal of material relating to the old
International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers on our large website.
Most of it is still grouped at the upper end of the Directory/Index:
http://www.hunterbear.org/directory.htm  And all IUMMSW pieces are grouped
together at the lower end.

At this point, see especially our page on the late M.E. Travis -- one of
Mine-Mill's more Left-identified leaders -- from which I have taken this
excerpt: http://www.hunterbear.org/travis.htm

From Hunter:

"In 1967, the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers
merged -- in both the United States and Canada -- with its bitter adversary,
United Steelworkers of America, which had, by this time, a few relatively
better faces in its top leadership. [One Mine-Mill local, 598, representing
workers at Falconbridge Nickel, Sudbury, Ontario, refused to merge and
continued a very effective life on its own -- eventually, many years later,
entering Canadian Auto Workers, and then the New Century.  It maintains its
unique Mine-Mill identity to this very moment.]


Maurice Travis never lost a spark of his basic fire.

In a late Summer, 1984 letter to a friend, commenting on the 1967 merger of
Mine-Mill, he wrote in part:  "I regret very much what happened to Mine-Mill
in both this country and Canada and, as a matter of fact, if I were younger
I would attempt to restore that international union to a place in the sun.
I think this could be done without too much difficulty under present
circumstances because there is no doubt that the American labor movement,
with a few exceptions such as the ILWU and some of the other so-called
left-wing unions, are merely the tools of a reactionary government.  The
sorry workers and even the employers as well are paying the price for their
short-sighted policies.  The steel industry is practically shut down in this
country.  The poorer south-west miners and smeltermen, etc., are on strike
under hopeless conditions, the mines are shut down in the south-west, the
smelters and mines of Montana are completely shut down. . ."  [Note by
Hunter Gray:  Travis, in his reference to the copper workers' situation in
the Southwest, is referring to the disastrous Steel-led Phelps-Dodge strike
of 1983-84. Characterized by the usual top-down decisional polices of the
Steel union -- in contrast to the grassroots democratic approach of the old
Mine-Mill -- the PD strike was functionally lost.]


HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

 

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:  Fire -- Figuratively -- Starts Off This Morning Just Fine  [11/17/05]

This morning started off for me -- shortly after 4 a.m. -- with a welcome
burst of fire from a good friend, Bob Gately [a member  of our Lists],
writing from Arizona right after he read my long post yesterday on the sad
"resolution" of the 130 day ASARCO copper strike. Bob's radical dad was a
long-time IUMMSW [Mine-Mill] International Rep. -- and tough.  Maurice
Travis [included substantially in my post] was tough -- as was Mine-Mill
[described by Business Week as "the leanest and toughest of unions."]
Belonging to the grassroots workers, and seen by them as theirs' in the most
primary sense, Mine-Mill scorned the "Madison Avenue unionism" that came
increasingly to dominate the American labor geography following World War
II.

Here I post Bob's two related comments:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
------------------

Hey, HunterBadBear,,,I remember Travis in my daddys basement telling me to
Butt out from his affairs, how he had protected us from the FBI's intrusion
in our affairs ...How we must go on and be the Man He imagined...The Next,
last, forever, amen....

In Life, Peace

Bob Gately


Indeed, The IUMM&SW would have rejected this settlement as being
bogus..Bull-shit in the face of reality..Copper prices are way up..the labor
to produce is diminished by the management who will get their profit in the
bankruptcy  process  by being  strong in the face of labors demands for
equality.....Who wins..the losers..labor, not.

Go down in the mines today...Labor is expended, profits are extended to the
Management, labor is expendable,  just another line on the bottom line..Who
wins...stockholders, workers, yo Momma ? Who holds the wealth of America...
Labor, the bust-ass buckaroos who produce the wealth or the Wall Street
Butt-heads that decide the company's worth ?
Can not labor define the worth of their production..who is the party to
decide this...? We wonder.

Miners are the men & women that daily go down into the pit to make their
daily bread...Who are they to demand their children's dreams come true ?
They are Americans, Bolivians,
people of the resource that propels civilizations forward...Who speaks for
them...Who takes there cause to the Next ? The Salt of the Earth are among
us and demanding recognition.
Who would make there stand in opposition to the demands of Wall Street
profiteers ? Who demands to ask ? Us, maybe.

Eat shit or die...They will decide, we will go  along or die trying to hold
on to the hard won profits of the past. When the last miner dies they will
say, nothing, as it was what it was, such as life, death, as it will be, in
history. Good-bye. Amigo.

Hasta luego, prospector, see ya further up the creek...

RWG


HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:  LESSONS AND LABOR CHALLENGES THAT CRY OUT [POSTED 11/17/05]

My post yesterday on the Steel Union, ASARCO, the old Mine-Mill and the sad
outcome of the just concluded 130 day struggle by the copper workers
involved was followed by Bro. Bob Gately's apt and timely comments -- and
thoughts by others are beginning to spark.  Almost two years ago I posted
two pieces on American Labor and its challenges and, in the spirit of our
current copper-related posts, I now repost these in their entirety.  Much in
the ensuing two years has ostensibly happened with respect to the Labor
picture in this country -- but how much really has happened for the better
still remains extremely speculative at this point. We shall always fight on
for sure -- but  "Takes more than words . . ."  H

http://www.hunterbear.org/mine_mill_class%20struggle.htm

MINE MILL: CLASS STRUGGLE -- AND LABOR MOVEMENT REVIVAL THOUGHTS
[HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR:  JANUARY 27 2004]

FOLLOWED BY -  REFLECTIONS ON [HOPEFULLY] REAL-STUFF DIXIE LABOR ORGANIZING
[HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR:  JANUARY 29  2004]  DIXIE ORGANIZING PUBLISHED IN
MAY DAY 2004 ISSUE OF THE SOCIALIST  UPDATED 1/07/05


MINE MILL

Couple of key-note things:

One is, awhile back, I [to my surprise] found myself increasingly unwilling
to dwell extensively on the Old Southern Civil Rights Movement.  Eldri and
I, who came into the Deep South in the latter summer '61, were there as
Movement activists for six years. My demonstration and  arrest and jail
record is quite respectable [Eldri was arrested, too] and we were enjoined
in injunctions [which we defied].  I was beaten in various ways, shot at
[and shot back a couple of times], on "death lists," hospitalized with
serious injuries, etc.  This and more happened to lots of people.  And,
since it's certainly important to get Movement history down accurately, I do
spend plenty of time with students and writers.

But we are always especially glad to see old Civil Rights activists tangling
with contemporary social justice issues -- and thinking in futuristic terms.

The second thing was a most negative comment from a member of a discussion
list following my latest posting on the hard-driving efforts of  copper
workers and retirees to secure contract and pension justice in Arizona from
the huge copper bosses.  The workers are led primarily and effectively  by
Local 937, San Manuel Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, formerly Mine-Mill and
now, since the '67 merger, in United Steelworkers of America.  But they
remain very conscious in the positive sense of the old, fighting Mine-Mill
traditions.

Anyway, said this Sour Fish,"99.9% of the members of this list don't care a
bit about the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers."  I don't believe that for a
moment -- but, Adios Fish.

Now I'm always much glad, believe me, to shoot the breeze on the Old Civil
Rights Movement Days and the various personalities that graced the
geography.  Honoring folks, commemorations -- fine.  But that good Old
Movement will not come again.

Racism is still  very much around -- fading at a glacial pace --  but some
former victims are now a comfortable part of the middle class. And the hard
bones of the economic class struggle remain along with most of the victims.

Important local "pieces" of the Old Civil Rights Movement survive broadly,
especially in the South, and do offer considerable potential to genuinely
committed labor organizers. Let's hope that AFL-CIO and its component
unions -- and independents as well -- put money and staff into direct
grassroots organizing, especially in settings like Dixie.  Mergers between
unions don't constitute organizing  in any sense and, unless they really
maintain the individual autonomy  and identity of the mergees [genuine
amalgamation based on mutual respect rather than gobbling assimilation],
mergers are negative.

CR Movement lessons are relatively universal, pretty much timeless:
courage, tactical nonviolence in demos and importance of political action
and litigation, principled civil disobedience, don't let racism slow your
momentum -- nor race or money break up your solidarity.  Those principles
live on.

But the economic class war goes on -- always -- and in the most tangible
sense.  And in fighting on the perennial class struggle front, I see unions
as absolutely critical -- all the way through the various Wars and into the
administration of whatever Visionary New Society  ultimately emerges.  But
most unions today, north of Mexico, strike me as pretty tired, maybe even
housebroken.  And union membership in the United States, of course, is
extremely low.

I do spend a good deal of time writing and posting on the old International
Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers [Mine-Mill].  In addition to the
fact that I know a great deal indeed about the Union, I also believe
strongly that it exemplifies what militant and genuinely effective unionism
must again be on all fronts. [At the beginning of 1960, the widely respected
Fund for the Republic recognized Mine-Mill as the most democratic of the
United States unions -- and said much the same thing  about several of the
other Left unions.]

The Preamble of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers --
like that of  the old Western Federation of Miners, by which name it was
known until 1916 -- firmly recognized the class struggle:

"We hold that there is a class struggle in Society, and that this struggle
is caused by economic conditions.  We affirm the economic condition of the
producer to be that he is exploited of the wealth which  he produces, being
allowed to retain barely sufficient for his elementary necessities. We hold
that the class struggle will continue until the producer is recognized as
the sole master of his product.  We assert that the working class, and it
alone, can and must achieve its own emancipation.  We hold that an
industrial union and the concerted political action of all wage workers is
the only method of attaining this end.  An injury to one is an injury to
all. . ."

Candid and explicit recognition of the class struggle, industrial unionism
[all workers in the particular industry together rather than the old-line
split-up craft unionism] and the bed-rock fundamental principle of An Injury
To One Is An Injury To all -- all of these major dimensions of the old
Mine-Mill are critical components of any healthy and effective unionism for
today and far beyond.

Add to that the fact that, at every point, Mine-Mill was always and
consistently racially and ethnically egalitarian.  And it was characterized
by vigorous rank and file democracy [among other things, heavy usage of the
referendum vote] in the context of strong autonomy and  pride at the level
of its local unions -- locals that were also broad community centers with a
wide variety of educational and recreational programs.

Its paid officials drew very modest salaries -- possibly the lowest of any
union in the United States and Canada.  No pie-card artists -- rip-offs --
in Mine-Mill.

Its visionary commitment -- basically socialist democracy -- always remained
strong.

And at every level, Mine-Mill  blazed new trails and fought collateral  and
very tangible struggles  for social justice in the United States and Canada.

Thus it encompassed the basic bones and components of healthy tribalism.

Take a good, long look at the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter
Workers. Never forget it, always remember it, consistently emulate it.

Fraternally/In Solidarity

HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR]  Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk -- and
United Auto Workers and United Association for Labor Education
www.hunterbear.org

When you cut to the bone  and cut away the college degrees, academic and
other titles, published books and articles, ours is essentially a working
class and Indian family.  We consistently join unions  -- and we always
support them with the greatest vigor.

It's critical to always keep fighting -- and to always remember that, if one
lives with grace, he/she should be prepared to die with grace.


REFLECTIONS ON [HOPEFULLY] REAL-STUFF DIXIE LABOR ORGANIZING

BY HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR]:  [JANUARY  29 2004]
ADDENDUM   1/07/05
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:

Attached is a short piece of mine -- Reflections On [Hopefully] Real-Stuff
Dixie Labor Organizing.  I did it a little less than a year ago, eventually
seeing it published in the May Day 2004 issue of The Socialist magazine
[SPUSA].  I'm now sending it out on a few discussion lists -- most of which
seem as languid recently as Sleepy Lagoon.  One dimension that isn't at all
quiescent in some quarters is, "Where-to the labor movement?"  That
discussion [and various mailings and pronouncements] bubbles along, very
predictably given the debacle of last early November -- but the real
question is, what will come of all this yeasting and fermenting?  A
little more on that in a moment.

On the South, the dear old Bloody South with its several unique regions, I
have to say that I do like it.  And, despite its predominately current
political coloration, I have for it a great deal of basic faith.  After all,
Eldri and I saw it initially in the latter Summer of '61 when most of Dixie
was truly an American Horror.  And when we left, years later in the Summer
of '67, it had come a long and Sunny way indeed -- but there are certainly
big stretches of trail yet to travel. [We do maintain our Southern
connections, not the least of which is my Life Membership in the Mississippi
Historical Society where I am in at least theoretical association with a
raft of old and poisonous enemies.]

But on the Labor Movement, my yearning faith is ever-tested -- as it has
been since I was a kid, just out of the Army at the beginning of '55,
making my life long commitment to consistent social activism.  I joined
unions in earnest at that point, have belonged to at least one and sometimes
more ever since.  But I consistently have to remind myself of Clarence
Darrow's comment about militant Western labor and its sometimes alleged
excesses.  "I know its cause is just."

Well, it is a test of faith.  The much bandied about stats tell -- union
membership in the USA is down to 13% or so [it was in the mid-30s percentage
wise in '55], with only about 8% of this in the private sector.  And there
have always been these discussions about, What To Do?

In 1949 and 1950, the Left unions -- almost a dozen vital internationals --
were purged from the Mainstream Waters of CIO.  "Communism" was the much
touted reason for this blood-letting, but even at the time -- and certainly
today -- this was and is seen as having been a spurious rationale for
self-serving pie-card nest feathering and raiding by the
conservative-to-moderately-liberal unions.  In any case, this sacrificial
ritual -- which destroyed most of the Left unions -- hardly enhanced the
fortunes of the Respectables.  The traditional enemies of labor remained, as
they always do, deadly foes.

In 1955, AFL and CIO more or less merged.  This was heralded as the
beginning of a Labor Resurrection.  Things continued downhill.

More recently, we have the touted panacea of inter-union "mergers" -- which
can hardly be called fresh grassroots organizing. And things continue
downhill.

And now, after last November especially, we hear more  analyses and
panaceas.

"Too many different unions to be effective.  Reduce the numbers into only a
few biggies."  Actually, I have heard this considered since at least the
1960s -- and rejected.  Few unions indeed would be willing to thusly
surrender their autonomy and unique identity.  Inter-cooperation can be
developed, even in a fairly formal structural fashion, and there can be
principled mergers, but there is no evidence that "Big Is Better."  Even the
great prototype, the IWW, had distinctive and essentially autonomous
industrial unions in its One Big Union.  Solidarity can be learned and
practiced without cannibalism, however veiled.

So again, we hear today that if A is done and followed by B and then C, the
Labor Movement will then "move out."  Every time I have heard that --  move
out -- and I have personally been around now for some many  years, nothing
has moved in that bailiwick unless it's moved backward.

We "Move Out" by direct organizing:  the person with shining eyes and vision
and the union pledge cards and literature who faces the mine or the factory
or the fields or the bureaucratic bastions -- and then indeed "moves out" by
moving forward.  How many organizers and their expenses could have been
funded for a very long time by even a moderate percentage of the
many, many tens of millions poured into, say, the recent political ritual?

I don't, believe me, demean appropriate political action.  But that is not
Genesis -- and Organizing  certainly is:  fresh, grassroots stuff.  At the
"point of production."  And if it's really democratic, a sensible, radical
class struggle ethos will certainly arise -- and remain.

And that has to be accompanied by Service -- genuine and enduring service
to the workingclass.

And that's the Real Genesis.  That's the trail to the Sun.

Let's look now at the South and Labor.  And yeah, I am still hopeful.

Hunter Bear
______________________________________________


The basic reason now that the South [and there really are several different
Souths in the geographical and socio-cultural sense] is so relatively
unorganized, union-wise, is that mainline American Labor simply won't make
the investment in intensive, pro-longed union organization and servicing of
locals.  It hasn't for many decades.  The one major effort, the CIO's
Operation Dixie [ its high point was 1946-1948] spent a million dollars,
hired 400 organizers, did organize a few hundred local unions in lumber,
textile, and tobacco. Then, in the face of increasingly explicit racism --
and the mounting Cold War atmosphere -- Operation Dixie faltered and failed.

That was more than a half century ago.

The most basic and enduring historical reasons feeding the hostile and often
virulently anti-union atmosphere in the South -- cynical use of racism by
the power structures to divide workers and keep unions out,  scab laws, the
Taft-Hartley Act, surviving feudalism, extremely antagonistic anti-union
local jurisdictions especially at the town and county levels --  are all
still very much part of the often tortured economic and social scenery.

But the Civil Rights Movement -- its countless demonstrations and
litigation,  egalitarian civil rights acts at the Federal level, organized
political action -- always fueled by the high courage of a vast throng of
Blacks and their allies -- have put racism and its attendant dimensions on
the skids.  Its demise may be at whatever glacial pace -- but it's no
longer the dependable anti-union "silver bullet" weapon that it was for so
many openly inflamed generations.  And even in the Old South of the 1910s,
the IWW could organize interracially and effectively in the Louisiana lumber
woods; and, in the 1930s and 1940s, a left union like Mine, Mill and Smelter
Workers was able to organize very effectively on a completely integrated and
egalitarian basis -- even in such absolutely racist and repressive bastions
as the Birmingham/Bessemer iron mining district.  But that took financial
resources -- and very much courage and visionary commitment.

Most unions were simply afraid to buck the racist status quo.

But now essentially, the AFL-CIO and most of its components simply don't
want to invest in what it takes:  much money, many good and creative
and courageous organizers, and first-rate lawyers and publicists.

In the latter stages of the Civil Rights Movement, especially in the late
'60s and well into the '70s, many opportunities existed for unions
to work directly and in close partnership with grassroots civil rights
organizations -- which often and eagerly proffered their hand.  But, with a
few significant exceptions, Labor simply got scared.

Internationals with Southern organizing traditions, such as International
Woodworkers of America and International Chemical Workers Union, were
backing away from the South in the late '50s and very early '60s even as the
Civil Rights Movement had barely hit its stride.  Still others, such as
United Packinghouse -- which had provided much direct food and
financial assistance to the Movement and had many attendant civil rights
contacts -- decided by the mid-60s against following through with any
substantial unionization efforts.  [I am personally quite familiar with
those three examples, as well as several others.]

When, up briefly at Akron from Mississippi, I directly [and politely]
challenged Walter Mitchell, the Anglo Alabamian who was International
President of the Chemical Workers, on his relative lack of any
substantive organizing in the Deep South and talked about the current
responsibilities of unionism, I received an intense hot-eyed glare and the
angry comment, "Shee-It!  That's kid talk."  He was a good man who soon
enough apologized, later quietly contributed funds to our burgeoning Jackson
Movement of 1962-63, and in the latter '60s ordered any still segregated
ICWU locals to integrate immediately or jump ship. But there was never any
really ongoing and effective Southern unionization from his International.

On the Southern battlefield itself, good and dedicated people like an old
friend, the late Claude Ramsay, President of the Mississippi AFL-CIO, fought
the very good struggle for decades -- but it was extremely tough and lonely.
Increasingly, his efforts, and those of his associates, were reduced to
attempting to lobby an extremely hostile state legislature -- usually
without any success.

Thus Labor, so far, has largely missed that great complex of opportunities
given it by the Civil Rights Movement: e.g., substantial, local grassroots
community organization;  smashing the hardest and most recalcitrant hard
lines of resistance to constructive social change; desegregation in many
areas and the beginnings of some genuine traditions of integration.

Talk always continues in Labor circles about "organizing the unorganized,"
but it frequently has a pie-in-the-sky ring and if bona fide unionization
efforts are almost always thin everywhere, they are certainly
virtually absent in most of the South.  There have been some victories in
Dixie -- but they are still only scratches in the red soil and pine needles
and mill towns.

The South -- Deep, Border, Middle, or Urban or Rural -- is a tough and
expensive crucible for any genuine social justice endeavors.  And it can
still  be sanguinary.

But those settings all abound with thoroughly exploited Blacks, Whites,
Hispanics, Native Americans, and immigrants from abroad.

AFL-CIO and many of its components certainly have a good deal of money -- as
witness their many substantial non-organizing project expenditures.  Direct,
grassroots organizing is Genesis -- and the South and other recalcitrant
regions have to be  organized sooner or later.

There are still many, many locally viable and living activist components
of the old Civil Rights Movement around. New grassroots community
organizations certainly continue to emerge. And much of this would
certainly be delighted to work with bona fide egalitarian, hard-hitting,
and visionary unionism.

It requires a very long-term, militant and affirmative commitment of many
kinds -- especially from Labor itself.

History reaches out to us, tells us again that it's time to Organize
and Fight --  hard and consistently -- wherever such are needed. Its
hand and grip are still strong and far from skeletal at this point.

But we must now take those Winds of History,  and ride with
them into the Four Directions and the Sun.


HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR]  Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk -- and
United Auto Workers and United Association for Labor Education
www.hunterbear.org

When you cut to the bone  and cut away the college degrees, academic and
other titles, published books and articles, ours is essentially a working
class and Indian family.  We consistently join unions  -- and we always
support them with the greatest vigor.

It's critical to always keep fighting -- and to always remember that, if one
lives with grace, he/she should be prepared to die with grace.

GOOD QUESTIONS AND MY RESPONSE  1/07/05
From:
To: hunterbadbear@earthlink.net
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2005 4:24 PM
Subject: the south

Hunter, I saw your column on organizing in the south. I think you raise some
very important points.  It would be useful to know what you think the
potential for organizing in the south amounts to - are there substantial
numbers of workers there whom the AFL is ignoring that they are not ignoring
in the north?  I am not trying to be argumentative only wondering how much
potential there really is with this approach.  For example, perhaps there
are large pockets of plants there that have not been organized that could be
but has the AFL really ignored this and behaved differently in the south
than elsewhere?
S.

Response by Hunter Bear:

Thanks very much for your note.  The South and all of the various Souths
hold a great deal of potential for labor unionism and much else.  In
addition to its old time industrial and related units and new homegrown
stuff, there is the ever flowing myriad of run-aways from the North.
AFL-CI0 has never been willing to invest substantial funds in organizing in
Dixie -- there are some older precedents for the funding of direct
organizing by the Federation in other parts of the country.  Most of the
individual internationals are afraid of really investing in Southern
organizing campaigns -- I mean, investing what it takes -- especially when
it comes to the generally recalcitrant [and sometimes violent] smaller
cities, towns, the rural areas.  Missing generally in union approaches in
the Southern context are affirmative and outgoing thrusts by the union
organizers.  If an invitation comes, say, to the organizer's international
or to the organizer himself/herself, an organizer might go forth -- but not
necessarily with the wherewithal really needed to win.  In my opinion, good
organizing means [among other things] "hustling" -- going out and stirring
up business --wrangling an invitation.  Again, the potential in the South
for unionism is genuinely great.

An old and good friend of mine, the late radical poet John Beecher
[originally from Alabama], once taught at Santa Clara.  His wife,
Barbara [now in western North Carolina], called us a few days ago and we had
a very long visit.

In Solidarity - Hunter


HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

I am honored -- humbled -- by the 2005 Elder Recognition Award of Wordcraft
Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. This particular, rarely issued
honor is one of several awards voted by the Caucus [board] of this
organization of writers, storytellers, film makers, and journalists.
http://www.hunterbear.org/elder_recognition_award_for_2005.htm
   Regularly updated.

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and
mysterious and remembering way.  [Hunter Bear]
 

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