NEW MEXICO STRUGGLES; AND THE WAR YEARS:  SOME MINE MILL AND RELATED HISTORY  [HUNTER GRAY /HUNTER BEAR   FEBRUARY 1  2004]

 

Mine-Mill faced the War Years with this very early [late December 1941]  victory proposal -- abridged in this 23 page pamphlet: PRODUCTION FOR VICTORY [Denver:  International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers (Press and Education Department, with  Research Department), 1941.]  The pamphlet carries a foreword by Phil Murray, President of the Congress of Industrial Organizations [CIO] and another by Reid Robinson, International President of Mine-Mill --  and a very  complimentary letter to Phil Murray on behalf of Mine-Mill from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

PRODUCTION FOR VICTORY makes a goodly number of recommendations for the metal mining industry and its collateral dimensions -- and some of them are:  industry-wide inventory; plant capacity studies; full use of all resources in metal mining operations [reopen shut down mines and exploit all ore in currently operating  workplaces];  maximum production -- 24 hours a day and seven days per week; clean air; air conditioning; end to all racial/ethnic discrimination; first-rate wages; decent housing; an end to unemployment; and full-scale collective bargaining.

 

 

A strike by Mine-Mill for higher wages against Potash Company of America, U.S. Potash Company, and International Minerals and Chemicals Corporation at Carlsbad, NM more than a half century ago,  met brutal stone-walling and total resistance from the bosses -- who were quick to use the hideous Taft-Hartley "slave labor act" of 1947. Out of the 1460 Mine-Mill workers involved, at least 400 were formally black-listed throughout the entire region.  This is a truly historic labor defense pamphlet.  The reverse page carries 18 photos and mini-bios of black list victims -- some Anglo, some Chicano.  Mine-Mill was always, in all racial/ethnic matters at all levels,  fully egalitarian.

The National Miners Union at Gallup, New Mexico.

This 1934 pamphlet by Pat Toohey -- 62 very interesting pages -- was issued by Workers Library Publishers, New York City.  It covers in detail the hard-fought labor struggles by the National Miners Union in the mid 1930s against the huge coal companies in the general Gallup, NM setting.  This included the Gallup American Coal Company [controlled by Chino Copper/Kennecott]; Diamond Coal Company; Gallup Southwestern Coal Company; Defiance Coal Company; and Mutual  Coal, Light and Power Company [United Verde Copper Company Mining Extension].  In addition, the Santa Fe Railroad had its fingers deeply into all of this -- on the bosses' side, of course.

Displeased with the laconic and ineffectual United Mine Workers of America, the coal miners in the Gallup District voted overwhelmingly for representation by National Miners Union.  The NMU had been formed in 1928 when the Communist Party, its sponsor, shifted from "boring from within" existent unions [Trade Union Educational League]  to dual unionism via the Trade Union Unity League.

The coal miners in the Gallup setting were starting from scratch.  The bosses had cut wages very substantially and  were forcing miners to perform "dead work" [non-mining maintenance work] at virtually no pay.  The miners wanted all of this fully rectified and, also,  among other demands: sought union recognition, higher wages, substantially improved health and safety conditions -- and an end to racial and ethnic discrimination.

With the willing and often violent cooperation of the McKinley County sheriff, his regular deputies and  his volunteers, and then the New Mexico State Militia, the companies began heavy scab-herding.  Striking miners and their families and sympathizers countered with mass meetings and  mass picketing.  The bosses used also used "legal" attacks and frameups, vigilantes, and deportations onto the remote, adjoining Navajo Reservation. [The hospitable Navajos always rescued the deportees.] The bosses and the sheriff et al. also evicted union activists from company-owned housing --  especially cruel and vindictive attacks which presaged the climactic scenes in the great Mine-Mill film of a generation later, SALT OF THE EARTH, based on the long, hard-fought strike by zinc miners and their wives in southwestern New Mexico.

The strike in the Gallup District was finally lost -- but the seeds of militant, radical unionism were carried  by the strike veterans 'way far over the Southwest. Coal mining declined at Gallup.  The town, ever more a citadel of bigotry, came to survive via Highway 66 and then the Interstate.

A reservation border town [Navajo and Zuni especially], Gallup also exploited all Indians and then kicked them out. My father always refused to stop in Gallup for anything in the old days -- got gasoline well before we got there from any direction.  In time, Gallup sort of improved. 

My youngest daughter, Josie, was born there right after Christmas in 1979.

 

 

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