The Legacy of the Bunker Hill Mine

  
Posted July 16, 2009 in Mining Labor History

The striking workers stood strong threw the summer and then the reactionaries tried something different. A petition for decertification was started up and those that signed on were called Blue Carders. Later it was revealed that a new "American" union, the Northwest Metal Workers, was behind this with the help of the local media that printed their lies and decertification forms in their papers. The Blue Carders got enough signatures for a NLRB decertification election. By the time the election was held in December many of the workers were broken down by the anti-Communists campaign (it was said that only Communists would vote for Mine MIll Workers), some of their kids and wives turning against them and the "Back to Work by Christmas Committee" of the Northwest Metal Workers. This committee had such emotional pleas printed in the local paper such as a little girl looking up at her father saying "will you be back to work by Christmas, daddy?" And "Please, God! for Mommy's sake let daddy go back to work by Christmas." Also, the schools in the Kellogg area stopped the school lunch program saying that it was helping the strikers by feeding their kids. The company union, the Northwest Metal Workers won the election by 51 votes.

Thus closed out the years of the Mine Mill Workers at Bunker Hill. The Metal Workers quickly gave the Bunker Hill bosses the contract that they wanted. A few years later the United Steel Workers took over the Bunker Hill contact along with all the other Mine Mill Worker's contracts in the district. And that is how I came to hold a card in the United Steel Workers a few years later.

This story does not end here, for in 1973 a fire badly damaged the baghouse, where smelter emissions were filtered through cloth bags before being released into the air. Rather than close down the smelter and repair the damage, the jackasses ran the smelter by-passing the baghouse and the built-up lead rained downed upon the surrounding towns. The families, and most tragically the children, were poisoned with lead.

The family of miner Bill Yoss, who had worked underground for 25 years at Bunker Hill, was tested by doctors from the Center for Disease Control. His daughter, Arlene, was found to have more than four times the threshold then considered dangerous. The lead had settled in her bones and her legs grew twisted. Only hot soaking baths would ease her continuous pain. Her mother was told, after the tests on Arlene and her two other children, that she had "three walking dead babies." In 1975 Bill Yoss went to see an attorney in Spokane to see what could be done. While he was away he was fired. The Yoss family filed suit against Bunker Hill. The information gathered for the suit told a story of corporate crime almost beyond comparison. Bunker Hill settled with the Yoss family and the families of 35 other children in 1981. All records and information gathered was sealed by the court, and it was not until 1990 that the records and the story that the suit revealed of the poisoning of the people of the Silver Valley became known.


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Related Towns:

Kellogg Wallace

Did You Know.......

A mine is a hole in the ground, owned by a liar.
-Mark Twain

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