|AFSCME Council 18|
400+ Gather in Grant Co. to Mark 60th Anniversary Salt of the Earth
Miner, Activist Arturo Flores, [PHOTO © Mitchell Clinton
Why They Fought -
An AFSCME, United Steelworkers, and IATSE led commemoration for the 60th Anniversary of Salt of the Earth [film] and 1952 victorious Empire Zinc Strike took place 3/15 in Grant County, New Mexico. While we have come far in the struggle for equality and workplace justice since the 1950's, the work is never done.
This wasn't your modern day informational picket line. This was a blood and guts struggle for basic rights and respect.
Mrs. Sierra fought to protect her people from tear gassing, shootings, and company sponsored violence. Ms Valencia was run down, literally, by a scab car on the day the company tried to break the women's picket line. Mr Flores worked in the mines and was a key activist in the struggle.
Women took over the picket line when Empire Zinc got a court injunction preventing the men from picketing. The women did not falter, eventually winning the two year strike.
Every union member should honor the sacrifice of those who came before us and dig deeper, find greater strength to be vocal and involved in today's battles.
Many Unions, the New Mexico Federation of Labor, and participating civic organizations took part on the 15th and paid tribute to the elders who are still with us and remained lifelong activists.
We honored the memory of miners passed, women, and families who stood up for equality and justice in, then segregated, Grant County NM.
Over 400 people gathered to take in events which included a tour of the historic Local 890 Union Hall, the Empire Zinc picket site, and a tunnel in the town of Hurley connecting Anglo and Mexican American communities that were cut off by a fence in the 50's.
United Steelworkers hosted a panel discussion, "From Women's Auxiliary to Women of Steel" and we watched the only film to ever be banned by the US Government, Salt of the Earth.
The victorious Empire Zinc Strike paved the way for greater equality between the races, and men and women in the United States. Mexican-American teachers began being hired, segregation unravelled, and a credit union was established to help mining families survive while they were on strike.
It is the greatest piece of American history which we are not taught in school. Through the event, and efforts to create a Labor History Society in New Mexico, we hope to change this reality.
The Labor Struggle goes on, and we're under sustained attack. See today's ABQ Journal article for the latest round as Governor Martinez escalates the fight by proposing to END Union Dues deductions. Call the Governor, 505-476-2200 and ask her to negotiate our contract in good faith! And...when exactly do we get our back pay anyway?
Woman of Steel - Activist on the Empire Zinc Picket Line Juana Mari Sierra [Photo ©Mitchell Clinton]
We stand on the shoulders of giants.
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