The Legacy of the Bunker Hill Mine

  
Posted July 16, 2009 in Mining Labor History

The CIO then handed all Mine, Mill Workers' jurisdiction over to the United Steel Workers. The Steel Workers had been violently raiding Mine, Mill Workers since the moment the resisted Talf-Hartley. Even with all this going on, Mine, Mill Workers was able to pull off some of the largest post-war strikes in the country. But after a while they were worn down by the attacks from every direction on them. On Jan. 16, 1967, the United Steel Workers took over the Mine, Mill Workers, and the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers was no more, except for one local in Sudbury, Canada that refused to change its name. Thus the legacy of the WFM died a very inglorious death. One can only speculate as to what a major difference there would have been to miners and the labor movement, had Moyer not soldout and forced the WFM out of the IWW.

After the brutal repression of the 1899 strike, the Coeur d'Alene District went through a number of years without any unions. This was aided by blacklists and the Idaho state government that issued a proclamation that forced miners to get a permit from the state to work. To get a permit a miner had to renounce membership in any organization (the union) that was involved in the 1899 struggle. Also any miner who was involved in that strike was refused a permit to work. In the '20s and '30s the Mine Mill Workers made slow inroads back into the district. This first important strike came about on August 2, 1937 at the Sunshine mine. With 216 miners picketing the mine some of the other mines (including Bunker Hill) that were still nonunion told their workers to quit work for the day and go to the Sunshine mine and put on a counter demonstration against the strike. Though they all took the day off with pay, only a small handful joined the counter demonstration. The press carried wild tails of violence, a tipped over buses set on fire, burning cars blocking the main highway and many injuries. The fact is that none of this had happened. It was only a campaign by the press to try to turn people against the strikers. The company fired all the strikers and hired scabs to take their place. Since the firing of workers involved in a legal strike was against the law, the fired workers did get back pay after a number of years of court battles, which the other mine owners helped with Sunshines legal expense. The union miners were blackballed and could not get jobs in the other mines.

It was not until 1942 that unionism return to Bunker Hill with a contract with the Mine mill Workers. By 1946 most of the district was again under union contact. But unfortunately the unity of the district was broken by a right wing element. In the contract negotiations of 1947 one of the three locals broke away from the other two and signed their own contract, with was for less than the master contract signed in time by the other two locals. When the 1949 negotiations were taking place the same local broke away again and signed as contract that was the same as before with no changes. The difference this time was that the other locals went out on strike. The right wing element had also infiltrated one of the other locals and forced an early settlement at Bunker Hill. This break in unity forced a settlement for far less than was being struggled for in the other mines. There was another strike in 1955 with about the same disunity and a settlement for less than they could have gotten. After this the locals went their separate ways and their were no more district wide Mine Mill strikes.

In the 1959 into 1960 negotiations at Bunker Hill the company took a hard line against the union and broke off all talks. On May 5, 1960 the workers at Bunker Hill went out on strike. This strike was to be different than in the past, for the reactionary and business communities mobilized against the union workers like never seen before in the district. The first important part in this happened in the schools. The school kids were taught about the so-called Communist infiltration in the U.S. Included in that was the claim of Communist control of some labor unions, including the Mine Mill Workers. To back this up they pointed to the expulsion of Mine Mill Workers from the CIO ten years earlier. With the help of some teachers, the Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion and the Shoshone County Anti-Communists Association a large number of high school kids organized the "I Am An American Youth Movement", and a large anti-Communist march and rally in Kellogg. The anti-Communitist hysteria grew to the point that union miners found their own kids turning against them. Later even a group of miner's wives organized an anti-Communist group. The anti-Communists issue a rather interesting list of words used by "Communist" that included, working class, ruling class, capitalist, tyranny, class struggle, demonstration, character assassination, stool pigeon, coexistence, scabs, big money interests, freedom loving people, democratic action, democratic majority, world peace, and the workers. They stated that "by their words ye shall know them". And asked, "How many have you heard locally?"


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Kellogg Wallace

Did You Know.......

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

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