MINE-MILL:  MILITANT ADVOCATE FOR RACIAL EQUALITY AND JUSTICE (Continued)  

 

A GREAT RALLY IN THE COPPER COUNTRY!

 

FOLLOWED BY --  MINE MILL: CLASS STRUGGLE -- AND LABOR MOVEMENT REVIVAL THOUGHTS

[HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR:  JANUARY 27 2004]

 

A GREAT RALLY

 

I [Hunter Gray / John R. Salter, Jr.] came up from the Deep South and spoke at great length on the struggle at this extremely enthusiastic and well attended civil rights rally, December 2 1963.

Open to the public, it was sponsored by the Arizona Mine-Mill Council and specifically organized by these Mine-Mill locals:  Miami Miners Union Local 586; Ray-Sonora Copper Workers Local 915; Hayden Smeltermens Union (AS&R) Local 886; Hayden Kennecott Local 939; San Manuel Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Local 937; and Superior Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Local 938.

In addition, Mine-Mill people came from these locals:   Copper Queen Miners Union Local 551, Bisbee; Morenci Miners Union Local 616; Banner Miners Union Local 929.

Union attendance was heavy and I spoke far into the night -- everything translated into Spanish -- as members came and went. Public attendance was good.

Mine-Mill officials and rank-and-file were deeply involved and active in making this an extremely successful and significant event.   Coordinating things was veteran Mine-Mill officer and organizer -- Charles Wilson, a very courageous White Southerner, originally from  Tennessee and Alabama, who worked vigorously for civil rights during his entire life.  He was a defendant in the infamous frameup -- the so-called "Mine-Mill Conspiracy Case"-- involving the non-Communist Taft-Hartley affidavits and designed and brought by the metal mining companies and the Federal government.  It was all eventually thrown out in 1966 by the United States Supreme Court.  See my discussion of that bizarre strike-breaking and union-busting affair: http://www.hunterbear.org/Mine-Millconspiracycase.htm

 

 

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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.

 

 

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