INTERNATIONAL UNION OF MINE, MILL AND SMELTER WORKERS

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      IUMMSW (Mine-Mill)

   Note Special Native American Arrowhead/Spearhead Cover Imprint For Me (Hunterbear)

 

The International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers (Mine-Mill) was,  like its extremely close relative and offspring -- the Industrial Workers of the World --   one of the most democratic, militant, racially egalitarian,  and socially visionary unions in the history of the world.  It was founded in 1893 as the Western Federation of Miners -- out of the hard fought and sanguinary labor wars in North Idaho's Coeur d'Alene district, where, as elsewhere, the mine owners and managers met every unionization effort with a brutal force and ruthlessness. 

Across the Mountain West,  company gunmen shot down WFM pickets, union halls were burned, WFM members and their families were deported by company-directed "vigilantes," Federal troops and state militias imprisoned hundreds of miners in "bull pen" concentration camps, there were massive   legal frameups directed against union militants and leadership.  Against   this backdrop of  hideous, bloody repression, the Western Federation of Miners not only persevered -- but it grew -- rapidly -- and it became extremely effective as a major, visionary social justice force.  Well before the end of the 19th century, the WFM endorsed an openly socialist position -- which always remained the primary ethos of the union [as WFM and later International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers.]   At the same time, the WFM -- like organized American labor was to do generally and   increasingly [and as other comparable social justice movements in this country   also did, however quietly -- e.g., the Southern Civil Rights Movement of the latter 1950s and 1960s] --  endorsed and practiced the American Constitutional right of armed self-defense:

At the WFM convention of 1897, held at Salt Lake City,   president Ed Boyce delivered a famous speech:

"I deem it important to direct your attention to Article 2 of the Constitutional Amendments of the United States -- "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  This you should comply with immediately.  Every {local} union should have a rifle club.  I strongly advise you to provide every member with the latest improved rifle, which can be obtained from the factory at a nominal price.  I entreat you to take action on this important question, so that in two years we can hear the inspiring music of the martial tread of 25,000 armed men in the ranks of labor."  {Cited in, among others, Vernon H. Jensen, Heritage of Conflict:  Labor Relations In  The Non-Ferrous Metals Industry Up   To 1930  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1950)  page 67.]

In 1916, the WFM  changed its name to IUMM&SW  -- in the end, simply a rechristening.  The old radical Preamble of the Western Federation of Miners became the Preamble of Mine-Mill:

"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. Therefore, we, the wage workers employed in and around the mines, mills and smelters, tunnels, open pits, open cuts, dredges, and other allied industries of the Western Hemisphere, unite under the following Constitution:"

This is the fire of indigenous Rebel America -- like the closely akin Wobblies --  which made the Labor Movement great,  which inspired and fueled the Civil Rights Movement and akin efforts,  and which continues to provide key trail blazes and beacon fires for future social justice crusades reaching Over The Mountains Yonder to a better world for all.

It takes guts to take and hold to the radical trail to social justice.  The Industrial Workers of the World was attacked savagely for decades   by thugs, vigilantes, government.  In the late 1940s, the IWW was formally designated "subversive" by the Attorney General of the United States and its members persecuted for years thereafter.  In the late 1940s and continuing on well into the 1960s, the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers was subjected to the most relentless private and governmental witch-hunting of any union of the period.  We all kept right on fighting.

There are many Mine-Mill components in this website.   With regard to the mid-century  red-scare witch-hunting directed against the Union, and the aftermath, see especially a portion of my long October 1960 article in Mainstream ["IUMM&SW:  The Good, Tough Fight"] -- with up-dating notes -- or click to it at this point.

Our quite large section on Mine-Mill -- which includes the page from my 1960 article -- starts at this point http://www.hunterbear.org/reflections_on_finns_and_finnish.htm

 

 

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