Hellraisers Journal: “From Butte to Bisbee,” Report on Striking Metal Miners from the International Socialist Review

You ought to be out raising hell.
This is the fighting age.
Put on your fighting clothes.
-Mother Jones

Hellraisers Journal, Thursday August 2, 1917
Report from Butte and Bisbee: Metal Miners Still Standing

From the International Socialist Review:

Butte, Bisbee AZ Metal Miners Strikes, ISR Aug 1917-1



IF YOU have any red blood in your veins you will take off your hat and salute the fifty thousand copper miners who are fighting from Butte to Bisbee for the right to organize into one big union. They want a union big enough to take in the 500,000 unorganized men in the metal mining industry in this country.

For years their separate unions have been spied upon and broken up by Pinkerton and Burns detectives who were in the employ of the copper companies. They have been betrayed and double-crossed by many of their own officials who posed as union men, but were on the companies’ pay rolls. They have been buried and blown up by the hundreds in producing profits for the copper kings and they now demand and are going to get together in one big union, which will be under their control.

They are having to face government troops, company gun men, deportation from their homes and misrepresentation by a lying prostitute press—they are being accused of being “German sympathizers” and of having received huge wads of German money, by lying labor leaders. Hundreds have been torn from their homes, herded into cattle cars without food or drink and are now threatened by company-owned sheriffs with bull pens. Still they fight on! Every socialist who is a socialist and every union man who is a union man will support this strike of the copper men to the limit.

The big industrial walkout of metal mine workers in the copper industry is spreading rapidly over the entire west. The miners of Butte were the first to go out, 14,000 strong. The Arizona miners of Metal Mine Workers Industrial Union, No. 800, of the I. W. W., are refusing to scab on the miners of Butte. Bisbee, Globe, Miami, Clifton, Morenci, Jerome, and Golconda are already out, and the mines shut down.

Butte, Bisbee AZ Metal Miners Strikes Soldiers, ISR Aug 1917-2

Capitalist papers now admit that copper production has decreased a million and a half pounds daily, owing to the big industrial strike. The newspaper men are used to the old time craft and local strikes, where the miners in one camp strike while the miners in other camps work overtime producing ore (altho calling themselves union men) so it is hard for them to understand that this is the dawn of the era of a new winning union, the I. W. W.

The big dailies scream in thick black and red headlines “I. W. W. Strikes Break Out In All Mining Districts.” They will soon learn that, instead of being many different strikes, it is a big industrial walkout. All for one and one for all. All of the different camps and districts are in close touch with each other and with the headquarters of No. 800 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The propaganda of the One Big Union is spreading like a forest fire. Education and organization are on the march.

There is much of interest to the working class in our fight with the copper kings; our solidarity will stand as a message to slaves throout the world in other industries, to organize and fight. The boss is the only foreigner in the eyes of the workers here. All nationalities are together. Out of three hundred and fifty Mexicans, who were working on top at the mines, only eighteen are scabbing.


Ninety per cent of the five thousand who work in the mining industry in Bisbee are out, the ten per cent who love the boss more than themselves include bosses, imported gunmen, old pensioners, mule skinners, watchmen, and others who imagine they are far above the common herd.

A great many have turned in their out of date craft union cards, lining up in 800. Of the five thousand miners in the Bisbee district over three thousand eight hundred have already joined the One Big Union. The others who are out with us are lining up fast every day. On June 26th our demands were presented and refused; next morning the strike was on, and pickets were at all the shafts. Wobblie Tactics! The mine owners were very much surprised that we didn’t give them a month’s notice to prepare to fight us and bring in gunmen.

We have meetings every evening in the city park. The last two evenings Fellow Worker James P. Thompson spoke to four thousand people at each meeting. He was greeted with rousing cheers which re-echoed thru the canyons of Bisbee. Thompson pointed out that for every drop of blood spilled on Everett’s bloody Sunday hundreds of red cards have been issued. The miners are taking advantage of their little vacation to study diligently the methods, spirit and organization power of the rising One Big Union. After our present demands of $6.00 for eight hours are granted we will begin to prepare for the next step onward, $8.00 for six hours.

In Santa Rita, New Mexico, the company has granted a “voluntary” raise in wages to the Mexicans working there. Instead of $2.30 for ten hours, they now receive $4.00 for eight hours. We expect that they will get another “voluntary” raise in the near future. One of our demands in Bisbee is $5.50 for all top men at the mines, most of whom are Mexicans; they formerly were paid $2.25.

Twice a week we have a big dance at the Union Hall, which has the best dance floor in town. Several hundred fellow workers, girls and boys, always have a good time at all our entertainments.

We have received telegrams assuring us support from many sections of the country. From the harvest fields, where the Agricultural Workers are gathering in the grain, and the Construction Workers, we receive messages and words of cheer and encouragement.

Solidarity and intelligence will win. Our victory is assured. The army of the Workers is advancing under the banner of the One Big Union.

Butte, Bisbee AZ Metal Miners Strikes, ISR Aug 1917-3

On June 26th the following demands were presented to the mining companies of the Warren District:

1. Abolition of the physical examination.

This abominable outrage has been inflicted upon the self-respecting workers of this district long enough. All union and non-union men as well freely voice their dislike for this system. It is really a blacklist in disguise and answers the same purpose as the rustling card system in Butte.

Often able-bodied, husky men are turned down by the so-called “doctors,” while the unfit are often accepted. Nothing but a blacklist in disguise. No real man likes to be stripped and handled like a mule at an auction sale when he applies for work.

2. Two men to work on machines.

The machines used today, operated by one man, are much heavier than the machines formerly run by two men. It is hard enough for the men to operate one of these machines at the pace set by the companies at present.

3. Two men to work together in all raises.

How can the companies follow their own advice, “Safety First,” without considering this demand?

4. To discontinue all blasting during shift.

Blasting during the shift and at dinner time is part of the speed-up system and we intend to do away with it. Also we have enough powder smoke from the previous shift, without continually eating smoke and being subject to severe headaches and sickness from this cause.

5. The abolition of all bonus and contract work.

The men are working hard enough now at day’s pay. Under the bonus and contract system, the men are setting a pace that the men on day’s pay must eventually follow.

6. To abolish the sliding scale. All men under ground a flat rate of $6 per shift. Top men $5.50 per shift.

The cost of living is gradually going up; we don’t know whether the sliding scale will or not. Probably not. Under the sliding scale the men have no protection whatever. When the scale slides down and the cost of living stays up, we don’t intend to be the goats. So with the Butte miners, we demand the flat rate in order to insure us at least a decent living.

7. No discrimination to be shown against members of any organization.

Butte, Bisbee AZ Metal Miners Strikes, ISR Aug 1917-4



By J. Oates

The miners are standing solid as granite. Not a ton of rock is coming up from below and no smoke is rolling out of the smelter stacks. It is a 100 per cent tie-up.

We have been denied the right of free assemblage in Globe. Our meeting last Sunday was orderly until it was invaded and broken up by U. S. troops. We then formed in line four thousand strong and hiked out past the city limits to the hills, where we held a hot meeting. Speeches were made in seven languages and a giant cactus served for a platform. Stanley Clark hit the mark when he said, “a certain Galilean agitator had to wear a crown of thorns on His head but the Wobblies have to walk on them to win.”

Company gunmen and the Loyalty League are hollering their heads off about law and order thru the lick-spittle press, yet they are the very crowd who are working overtime to start trouble by threatening to drive us out of the district.

The fact is the miners are determined to win the strike. They realize full well what every day the mines are closed down is costing the Copper Trust, and they also know it is but a matter of time when their full demands will have to be granted. The miners are strong for the six-hour day proposition. The picket lines are growing stronger every day and the general situation is well in hand.

At Globe, on July 4th, a bunch of gunmen cleared the streets with bayonets while Governor Campbell and Superior Court Judge Shitz drove a truck load of provisions thru the picket line into the company’s property.

On Saturday, June 30, the Miami-Globe district branch of the Metal Mine Workers’ Industrial Union 800 presented to the managers of the mines, mills and smelters of the district the following demands:

1. Two men shall be employed on all piston and Leyner machines.

2. Two men to work together in all raises and stopes.

3. No blasting in raises, stopes or drifts during shifts.

4. Abolition of the contract and the bonus systems.

5. Abolition of the rustling card system.

6. Abolition of the sliding scale.

7. Representation in the control of the hospital.

8. No discrimination against members of any union.

9. A minimum wage of $6.00 for all men working underground.

10. A minimum wage of $5.50 for all men working on the surface.

These reasonable demands were ignored by the managers, and a strike, effective at 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon, July 1, was called.

Every wage worker going to or from work on July 12th read the news of the deportation of hundreds of miners in Arizona and the following telegram was immediately sent from headquarters of the Industrial Workers of the World in Chicago:

July 13th, 1917.

Washington, D. C.

More than two thousand men who were dragged from their homes and forcibly deported from Bisbee, Arizona, are adrift on the desert at [Hermanas], New Mexico. These men are miners, useful citizens, residents of Bisbee, Arizona. The United States can ill afford to permit these Prussianized methods to go unchecked. We demand that these men be cared for and restored to their homes and families.

General Secretary-Treasurer
Industrial Workers of the World.

President Wilson immediately protested against the deporting of the I. W. W’s. and sent the following message to Governor Campbell of Arizona:

Secretary of War has instructed General Parker to send officers to Arizona at once to report to him conditions there, with a view to co-operating in the maintenance of order.

Meantime, may I not respectfully urge the greater danger of citizens taking the law into their own hands, as your report indicates their having done. I look upon such actions with grave apprehension. A very serious responsibility is assumed when such precedents are set.


As we go to press, news comes in that all the active union men are being arrested and jailed, including the two workers in Arizona who furnished the photographs and information which is contained in this article.

Butte, Bisbee AZ Metal Miners Strikes, ISR Aug 1917-5


The following telegram and resolution just reaches us from Butte:

Butte, Mont., July 18, 1917.

Do not believe press reports. Strike still on. Let every one know. Will notify you officially when strike is off. Stay away from Butte. Give this widest publicity.

Press Committee
Metal Mine Workers Union.

Resolutions adopted by the Metal Mine Workers Union of Butte, July 12, 1917:

Whereas, Owing to the corruption and disloyalty of Western Federation officials in 1914, we the miners of Butte lost our organization and since that time have waited without avail on the American Federation of Labor or a similar body to organize us once more; and,

Whereas, This, our new organization, numbering not less than 90 per cent of the men employed in this district, was led to believe by officers of the American Federation of Labor that if it would affiliate with the American Federation of Labor thru the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, it would be received as a body into and get the full and active support of the entire Federation in continuing its strike and securing the redress of every one of its grievances; and,

Whereas, Accordingly, in this belief, it was decided to put to the full and free vote of our members the question of affiliation, and preparations were at once made for this purpose; and,

Whereas, At the eleventh hour, when everything indicated an almost unanimous vote in favor of affiliation, the accredited representative of the Metal Mine Workers’ department of the American Federation of Labor, W. H. Davidson, formally announced that the only conditions on which we could affiliate would be that we immediately break up our union that we affiliate as individuals and not as a body, that we at once end our strike and go back to work, and that in consequence we should lose all the fruits of our efforts and our sacrifice; and,

Whereas, This last-minute move on the part of the International Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers and its officers here at once brought forcibly home and clear to us its incompetence, its uselessness and its utter disloyalty to labor and the striking miners of this district; and,

Whereas, In the result we have shown by an overwhelming vote that we shall have nothing to do and no connection with such infamous traitors to the cause of labor; and,

Whereas, There are now engaged in the metal industries in this country not less than 500,000 men, and of this number less than 15,000 belong to the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers; and,

Whereas, The same harsh and intolerable conditions obtain all over; and,

Whereas, It is beyond question necessary and the time is now ripe for all of us and our co-workers to unite and organize for our welfare and protection,

Now, Therefore, Be It Unanimously Resolved, by us, the metal miners of Butte, in mass meeting assembled, that we do hereby call upon all metal mine and allied workers of this continent to meet forthwith at their respective camps and then and there, for the purpose of uniting and organizing and consolidating all our forces, to select, in the proportion of one to every five hundred men, or less if the camp be less in number, delegates to attend a conference, not later than August 1. 1917, at Denver, Colorado, then and there to deliberate and form one clear and definite union of the metal mine and allied workers of this country, then and thereafter to be solely and entirely devoted to promoting the best interests of its members.

And Be It Further Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be sent to every metal miners’ organization on this continent, and that copies be furnished to the press.


Butte, Bisbee AZ Metal Miners Strikes, ISR Aug 1917-6


International Socialist Review Volume 18
(Chicago, Illinois)
Charles H. Kerr and Company
July 1917-June 1918
ISR Aug 1917
“Butte to Bisbee”
(Also source for images within article.)

See also:

Metal Mine Workers Industrial Union No. 800

Metal Mine Workers Union-Butte Independent