[Marxism] Militant unionism and radical activists in the afterglow of the frontier

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 5 17:34:17 MDT 2004

Note by Hunter Bear:

I posted this on a few lists quite some time back and am intrigued to
occasionally find it reprinted.  I am running it again since its various
threads give a good picture of the immediate post frontier roots of vigorous
and vital radical industrial unionism -- and also indicate that much
colorful and very meaningful history from the United States and Canadian
West is really not that long ago at all.


Our large Hunterbear website regularly receives visitors -- from both the
'States and Canada -- who are doing family and other research into the
International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. We have a lot of
Mine-Mill material on our website. This has also led to many off-list
inquiries for details. One such request came the other day from a gentlemen,
Mr John Richard, now at Sun City, Arizona who is doing an extensive family
narrative -- and was interested in anything I could tell him about his
uncle-by-marriage, John [Jack] Clark, who had been International President
of the Mine-Mill union from 1948 until 1962 -- a period when the Union was
under extraordinary attack by the mining bosses, the Federal government in
both countries, and right-wing unions. John Clark, who did a consistently
fine and courageous job throughout his life, had joined the Western
Federation of Miners during the early period and continued into the
rechristened [1916] IUMMSW. He was a hard and consistent fighter throughout
his life for militant and visionary unionism in the context of grassroots,
egalitarian rank-and-file democracy. He held many posts in the Union and his
contributions were consistent and splendid -- and he continued his
post-President work in a very important elder statesmen role until the
merger of Mine-Mill with Steel in '67.

Mr Richard's mother, and John Clark's wife -- sisters, also had a Métis
[Native] background through the Sinclair family in the Red River area of
Manitoba -- a family which is also found in northern North Dakota and
Montana, several of whose members have been university students of mine.

I wrote a very extensive and positive response to Mr Richard's inquiry. One
of the personal stories I told went back into the great copper strike of
1959 -- from Butte to the Mexican border and some other places as well. The
strike was won by Mine-Mill -- against Phelps Dodge, Anaconda, Magma,
Kennecott, and AS & R -- but it was a long, tough struggle. It was
especially tough because the Feds, in obvious collusion with the mining
bosses, picked that very moment to bring to trial those Mine-Mill officials
against whom Taft-Hartley "Communist conspiracy" frame-up charges had been
brought 'way back in '56. [Those cases were finally won in 1966. Mine-Mill,
in fact, won every single one of the many witch-hunting cases thrown at it.]
In addition to the nefarious TH "conspiracy" cases and the general use of
scabs and thugs and sheriffs and injunctions, Magma Copper initiated a
"throw-out-the-union" / "back to work" move at Superior, Arizona, where
Mine-Mill Local 938 was relatively new, having just been organized in 1957.
This was obviously something the bosses hoped would be a general industry
harbinger. The Union poured volunteer members and staff into Superior -- and
John Clark, of course, came down immediately from International headquarters
at Denver. Working systematically night and day, he visited with each worker
involved in the Superior mine, mill and smelter -- and with their families.
The company's maneuver was overwhelmingly defeated by a huge pro-union vote.

Mr Richard then wrote this letter -- which gives an interesting sketch of
the migratory life of many hard-rock miners in the afterglow of the Western

Dear Mr Gray,
Many thanks for your tribute to John Clark. Just what I need for my
narrative story about my family roots. I have the early history of my
mother. Jeanne L'heureurx and her sister Melvina L'heureux. Mom met Dad in
the little town of Greenwood, British Columbia where she and her sister
Vina(short for Melvina) were in nurses training at the local Catholic
hospital. Uncle Jack who was born in England worked in the nearby mining
camp of Phoenix(ca.1908). That's when he joined the Western Federation of
Miners; he was always proud of the pendant ribbon from that early union He
met Vina and they married about 1914. A little later my Dad, Ulysses Richard
took off from the now ghost town of Bolster, Wa. to take on a job as crane
operator in the town of Greenwood's smelter (ca 1910). The smelter closed
but not before Dad had met and married Jeanne. They moved to Great Falls,
Mont. Jack and Vina bought a ranch in the Kettle River area of northern
Washington (now underwater). After a few years Jack went back to the mines
in Coeur d'Alene region of Idaho, and then moved to Great Falls, Montana
where he worked for the ubiquitous Anaconda Copper Mining Co. as did my Dad.

Thanks also for your suggestion about the Sinclair name; I am still
researching that name. The plight of the Metis families in Montana and North
Dakota was not a happy one; they suffered rejection on all sides.

So, your dad lived in Sun City. I wonder if he knew I.W. Abel who also lived
in Sun City. I only met him once at a Democratic Party meeting and he spoke
highly of Jack. These old-timers have not received the recognition they
deserve. I was pleased to see your Web Site in the field of battle to
preserve values and memories that should kept.

Thanks, again.
John Richard

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR]   Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]

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