ORGANIZER 19  

MINE-MILL:  "POPSICLES,"  RED HUNTS, AND REALITY  [HUNTER GRAY  7/13/02]

TRYING TO KILL TIME IN THE IDAHO HEAT -- WHILE THE HEAT TRIES TO KILL US [HUNTER GRAY  JULY 13 2002]

 

MINE-MILL:  "POPSICLES,"  RED HUNTS, AND REALITY  [HUNTER GRAY  7/13/02]

In part, this is addressed to the several confused Red-baiters of ASDnet
but, mostly, this is a post on Mine-Mill prompted by a friendly and
reasonable off-list ASDnet question, "Where in the world did the obviously
pejorative term  "popsicle" originate?"  And that, in turn, was sparked by
my comment of a couple of days ago within a much  larger ASDnet post:

"Always and forever a loyal Mine-Mill man, of
course, I certainly had no compunctions -- indeed, I had endless
enthusiasm -- about fighting the Eastern-based Steel union finks who were
out to raid the Mine-Mill membership.  We were able to handle those
Red-baiting "popsicle" boys easily enough."

My large Lair of Hunterbear website  www.hunterbear.org contains, among many
dimensions, a great deal of material on both the International Union of
Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers [Western Federation of Miners] and its
offspring, the Industrial Workers of the World.  The links are too many to
give here -- and the stuff is very easily found by anyone via our
comprehensive Index/Directory which drops down like a vertical shaft through
all sorts of clearly-marked wonders.


The origin and spread of "popsicle" is interesting.  The term originated in
Alabama and Tennessee in the very early 1930s when Tennessee Coal and Iron
attempted an intensive series of company union maneuvers to keep bona fide
unionism away.  At their company union meetings -- e.g., at the Bessemer
District [ Bessemer, Fairfield, Ishkooda, Muscoda, Wenonah] iron mining
region near Birmingham -- TCI passed out popsicles as refreshments.  Hence,
company union types were known to Real Unionists as "popsicles."  In the
early and mid 1930s, organizing as it always did everywhere on a completely
interracial basis [integrated locals, integrated officers, etc], Mine-Mill
won widespread bargaining jurisdiction in the Bessemer District and
environs.

In 1949, even before the forced ouster of Mine-Mill from CIO, along with the other
Left unions, the United Steelworkers -- both directly and through union "fronts"
 -- began a series of vicious Red-baiting and race-baiting raids against
Mine-Mill in Alabama.  Steel, working openly with the KKK, labeled Mine-Mill
the "N_____r" union.  Maurice Travis, Mine-Mill International
Secretary-Treasurer, was brutally beaten by a gaggle of Steel/Klan types at
Bessemer and lost an eye.  In this context and for many, many years
thereafter, Steel was always viewed quite rightly by Mine-Mill as a corrupt,
company union -- and the Steel finks were labeled "popsicles."  Following
the ouster of Mine-Mill from CIO in 1950, raiding attacks by Steel [and to a
much lesser extent by several other unions], were launched openly  against
Mine-Mill throughout the United States and Canada. These efforts were joined
by the most blatantly witch-hunting Federal attacks ever conducted against
any union since the World War I/Red Scare campaign against the IWW.  As this
occurred, the term "popsicle" for the Steel raiders and their pets came into
wide-spread usage in Mine-Mill culture.

Although, as a result of the heavy and continual racist barrage directed at
white workers, Mine Mill very narrowly lost a portion of its Alabama
jurisdiction to Steel, it retained much in Alabama.  And generally, it held
its basic hard-rock jurisdiction in the Rocky Mountain and environs sections
of the United States and Canada. In addition, it won by large majorities
major new  bargaining units -- e.g., in 1956 at the new, large Magma Copper
operation at San Manuel, Arizona [near Tucson ] -- where Steel used
[obviously to no avail] a version of the old National Association of
Manufacturers anti-CIO bumper sticker, "A Vote For Mine-Mill Is A Vote For A
Soviet America."

Earlier, [when I was still in the Army] in the Butte/Anaconda setting -- the
symbolic heart of Mine-Mill -- Steel made a major, heavily financed raiding
effort.  In this it was assisted by the opportunistic defection of a key
Mine-Mill leader,  Bill Mason,  who assisted Steel in taking over and
temporarily holding the historic hall of Butte Miners Union No. 1.
Red-baiting was extreme.  And here's what happened in the very heavily Roman
Catholic Montana setting:

Thousands of loyal Mine-Mill members marched through Butte in late January,
1954 and retook the Union Hall.  In late March, 1954, Butte miners and
Anaconda smeltermen voted two to one to stick with Mine-Mill. [The vote
tally was 4,099 for Mine-Mill  and 2,185 for Steel -- with only 60 "no
union" ballots, 17 "challenged" and 28 "void."]

Steel continued its raiding efforts in both the United States and Canada.
In the early 1950s, Federal witch-hunting committees began attacking
Mine-Mill and, in 1954, the Republican Eisenhower administration -- ever
sensitive to the metal mining bosses -- began a series of blatantly vicious
legal attacks, mostly through the Department of Justice, on Mine-Mill and
various individuals in the Union.  These unremitting attacks continued far
into the JFK Administration -- which, in addition to its strong corporate
loyalties, played to the corrupt United Steelworkers [and its heavily paid
International President, "Wavy Davy" McDonald.]  Again and again, at the
Federal Circuit and United States Supreme Court levels, Mine-Mill ultimately
won.  It won every single case brought against it by the witch-hunting U.S.
government.  But the financial costs were extremely heavy.

In 1967, Mine-Mill in both the United States and Canada [the Canadian
section of the International was autonomous] merged with Steel -- which, by
then, had a few somewhat "better" faces in its International leadership.
The merger is viewed by many in retrospect as having been a very heavy
mistake -- with the feeling that the old Mine-Mill should have kept on as
Mine-Mill.  One Canadian local, 598 [Falconbridge Nickel, Sudbury] refused
to merge and continued for years an independent Mine-Mill existence.  Almost
a decade ago, it joined CAW -- but continues to maintain its autonomy.

From its founding in North Idaho in 1892-93 as WFM, and all the way through
the many blood-dimmed decades, Mine-Mill [WFM eventually changed its name],
remained the same basic socialist union:  pervasively radical in the
homegrown sense [its Preamble was always very similar to that of its
offspring, the IWW], extremely democratic and egalitarian at every point,
much local autonomy always,  hard-fighting and militant.  A variety of
radical perspectives were always found within Mine-Mill in both the 'States
and Canada.  Among these were some Communists -- who functioned at every
point loyally and well. And, although by the mid-1950s, most of these were
no longer Communists, they continued to work very hard for the Union.
Mine-Mill people stuck together.

The very capable and courageous International Secretary-Treasurer, Maurice
E. Travis [from the Idaho/Washington border and the son-in-law of legendary
IWW organizer, Sam Embree], had a Communist background.  He worked very
comfortably with the hard-fighting non-Communist Orville Larson, of Miami
Arizona, the Western Vice-President of Mine-Mill, who had essentially a
Wobbly perspective. The Eastern VP [later simply VP] was Asbury Howard of
Bessemer, major Alabama civil rights activist, and an ordained clergyman.  A
long time important figure in the Union -- its President during a very
critical period -- was very feisty John Clark of Montana, again with an
old Wobbly view, and a man who had driven stage coach in Arizona Territory.

About 1960, the much respected Fund for the Republic, in its thorough study
of union democracy in the United States, found Mine-Mill -- which
traditionally used the grassroots referendum vote with great frequency --
and whose officer and staff salaries were the lowest in America north of
Mexico -- to be the most democratic of the U.S. unions.  And Business Week
found Mine-Mill to be "the leanest and toughest of unions . . .strong,
tough, and dangerous."

It's worth noting -- especially by confused Red-baiters -- that, on January
18, 1957, the Mine-Mill International Executive Board passed this
resolution:

"The leaders of this union hold no brief for Communism, the Communist Party,
or its program.  We are opposed to all forms of dictatorship, including the
communist, and we stand as always for the elimination of all attacks upon
freedom of thought and civil rights, whether the arena is Hungary, South
Africa, or the public schools, busses, mining camps, and factories of our
own United States." [See, as one source, "The Mine-Mill Conspiracy Case" by
Sidney Lens (Introduction by Norman Thomas) Mine-Mill Defense Committee,
Denver, 1960.

I personally have about a million shining memories of the old Mine-Mill --
in which I cut my teeth and learned much, much about Real Organizing and
Effective Fighting [and I have never forgotten any of it!] Here's just one
bright star:

Late in 1962,  the Jackson Youth Council of the NAACP [to which I was Adult
Advisor] needed funds to pay for tens of thousands of Jackson boycott
leaflets.  We were getting set to launch the historic Jackson Boycott
Movement [Eldri and myself and four of my Tougaloo students subsequently
started it off with our quickly-suppressed and arrested picket demonstration
on downtown Jackson's Capitol Street in mid-December, 1962. This grew into
the truly massive -- and very enduringly effective -- Jackson Movement.]
While we were pondering fund appeal approaches, a check for $100.00 Canadian
arrived -- by Air -- from the Kimberly B.C. Mine & Mill Workers via its
secretary, Brother J.G. Flanagan.  And that paid for our first batch of
10,000 leaflets.

Fraternally,

Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]

Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]
www.hunterbear.org (strawberry socialism)
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´

TRYING TO KILL TIME IN THE IDAHO HEAT -- WHILE THE HEAT TRIES TO KILL US [HUNTER GRAY  JULY 13 2002]

Note by Hunterbear:

Although the record-breaking intense heat that pressures down on a big piece
of the  Land is breaking in some areas, it isn't letting up yet in our
corner of the Rockies.  Last evening, with things hitting an extraordinary
102 degrees, my youngest daughter, Josie [22], and friends were up in the
very tough Caribou Mountains, had a vehicle flat in isolated and rugged
country, and finally made it back at night to a small mountain town.

With the sectarian political Net discussions unusually subdued, and other
family members wondering if we'd been chewing loco weed,  Maria [oldest
daughter] and I and our family Shelty [also named Hunter] left our 'way up
family house this late afternoon  in 103 degree heat and traveled five
super-steep miles up into the very high and very steep rocky ridge country.
It didn't get much cooler even up there -- though we had some shade from
pines and cedars. After awhile I began to feel that I was back in boot camp.
[About all that was missing was the Crawdad Marching Song.]  Finally, at one
relatively treeless very far up top-out point, the sun was dropping but
still pounding very intensely down  upon my wide-brimmed Australian Akubra
Cattleman's hat [with the Kangaroo hide chinstrap.]  Maria and Hunter [the
dog] were showing seditious signs of having had it. By this time we were no
longer even concerned about rattlers -- who were obviously and sensibly
holed up in cool crevices.  So I led our little party down a ridge -- and
then  sharply down an extremely steep but shaded slope into a pleasantly
darkening mountain valley.   From there, having seen no other humans
anywhere on the entire junket, we made our way back to the house and ice.

Although we're all pretty much libertarians on doing our own thing our own
way, we  really didn't get much sympathy from the home guard folks on this
one.

Yours, Hunter [Hunterbear]

Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]
www.hunterbear.org (strawberry socialism)
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´



 

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