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

Thursday August 6, 1914
From the International Socialist Review: Haywood on "The Revolt at Butte"

Big Bill Haywood, 1904
We now present the views of William D. Haywood, on the tragic situation of the Miners" Union at Butte. Haywood is the former Secretary-Treasurer of the Western Federation Miners and is now one of the most famous leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World. In the article, Haywood asserts that the miners are justified in their revolt against Local Union No. 1, and maintains that:
..As long as copper is mined in that camp the people who live and work there will keep in memory the eventful days of June 13 and June 23, 1914."Hoodoo" and "skidoo" days. The miners got in two splendid shifts' work. "They picked down, mucked back, set up, drilled a full round and blasted. Every hole broke bottom."

This reference in miners' parlance to the revolt in Butte, Montana, means that nearly 7,000 men gave vent to spontaneous action against the iniquities that they have suffered.

From the International Socialist Review of August 1914:

Butte Miners Hall after Explosion, ISR, Aug 1914

The Revolt at Butte


EVERY swing of the miner's pick, every chug of the machine drill, shortens the life of a mining camp. Every carload of ore that is hoisted is measuring the heart beats of Butte, Montana. But as long as copper is mined in that camp the people who live and work there will keep in memory the eventful days of June 13 and June 23, 1914. "Hoodoo" and "skidoo" days. The miners got in two splendid shifts' work. "They picked down, mucked back, set up, drilled a full round and blasted. Every hole broke bottom."

This reference in miners' parlance to the revolt in Butte, Montana, means that nearly 7,000 men gave vent to spontaneous action against the iniquities that they have suffered. For many years the Miners' Union has been under the control of the Anaconda Copper Company. A contract had been imposed upon them in which originally they had no voice in the making. The infamous permit card system is a later development. It was a similar blacklisting scheme that was inaugurated by the mining companies in the Coeur d'Alenes after the great strike of 1899, when a permit to seek employment was required of every man looking for a job. At that time a miner who secured work was compelled to abjure his connection with the Western Federation of Miners, and it was against this in famous "permit system" that Mike Devine in his dying words said: "Boys, don't sign."

Thirty-six years ago the miners of Butte formed a union for the mutual protection and advancement of the men who spent most of their lives underground and in working around the mines. Since then many of the old timers have found permanent underground homes in the great cemetery in the flat below Butte. Eighty-five thousand are buried there, mostly miners. In the years that have gone there has been a continuous procession of the members of the Miners' Union from their hall to the graveyard.

As the mines of Butte developed the decimated ranks of the pioneer miners were filled with newcomers from the many corners of the earth. The union grew in numbers, in power and in purpose, it became the warp and woof of the economic, social and civic life of the great copper camp. Men were proud of their union. A membership card of Butte Miners' Union was cherished as a family relic.

June 13 was the anniversary of the organization, it was the annual fete. On that day the mines closed down, the whistles were silent. Under a canopy of sulphurous smoke from burning piles of ore, Butte celebrated. The thousands of miners marched in parade, speeches were made, a good time was had and a new year begun.

Then came a change—crooked scheming politicians sought to advance their interests through their influence in the union. The personal squabbles and ambitions of the copper magnates, Clark, Daly and Heinze, were bitterly fought among the miners. When the trust was formed, the Standard Oil, Rockefeller's interests, became the dominant factor of the Amalgamated Company. John D. Ryan, the man of his master's initials, resident manager of the Robber Oil and Copper Barons, was wise in his day and hour and saw the need of controlling the union as well as the mines and smelters.

Insidiously the work of cultivating traitors among the members of the union was prosecuted. The black-hearted and weak-kneed found the trail that led to the sixth floor of the Big Ship (the company's store), where the offices were located. There the stool-pigeons—the copper-collared slaves—got their instructions as to how to lead their fellow workers to the shambles. The elections of the union were so manipulated that the company tools were elected to official positions. There were few exceptions.

It was during one of the periods when true union men had a voice in the union that the crucial test came. The miners demanded an increase in wages to meet the advanced cost of living. With the approved methods of the I. W. W., the Western Federation of Miners, then being an integral part of the Industrial Workers of the World, the local regularly amended its constitution, providing for a minimum wage of $4.00 per day and $4.50 for sinking. A committee was appointed by the union to notify the companies of the change in the constitution, which was to go into effect May 1, 1907. From this event we can follow with the certainty of a surveyor's stakes on a section line other events that led up to the tragic revolt of the rank and file during the days of June 13 and 23, 1914.

When the company was informed that a raise of 50 cents a day was demanded, John D. Ryan, manager, and Superintendent Gillie said that they would not grant the raise and threatened to close down the Amalgamated properties if the miners stood by their amended constitution. They agreed that work should continue uninterrupted on the basis of a sliding scale, wages to be determined by the market price of copper. At this juncture Manager Ryan and Superintendent Gillie told the committee that they must have a contract.

It is interesting at this time to note that the agent of Rockefeller in Butte imposed a five-year agreement upon the employes of the Anaconda Copper Company and that this contract has since been renewed, is now in existence and has a year to run. John D. Rockefeller testified before the Congressional committee relative to the Colorado situation that his company would lose its millions invested in the C. F. and I. rather than recognize the United Mine Workers of America. Further, that he was fighting for the great American principle of "A man having the right to work where, when and for whom he pleases." In view of this testimony the Butte agreement becomes a significant document. It is as follows:

Whereas, the Butte Miners Union and the mining companies operating in the Butte district being desirous of perpetuating their friendly relations and at the same time have a definite understanding as to the compensation members of the union shall receive for their work from their employers, do mutually agree as follows:

1. That eight hours in each twenty-four shall constitute a shift or day's work.

2. The miners shall start to go down the shaft or other mine openings at the beginning of the shift and shall leave their place of work at the expiration of eight and one-half hours from that time, it being understood that the miner shall have one-half hour of that time in which to eat lunch. The miners to be hoisted or come from their work on their own time. It is also understood that where three consecutive shifts are employed eight consecutive hours shall constitute a day's work.

3. Where the word "miner" is used in this agreement it shall mean all underground men engaged in any of the work of mining.

4. The rate or amount of wages to be paid a miner for a day's work or proportionately for a part of a day's work to be determined as follows: The average market price per pound of electrolytic copper as given in Engineering & Mining for each calendar month shall be the basis of determining the rate of wages.

5. When the average monthly price of electrolytic copper shall be 18 cents per pound or over, then the wage rate shall be $4 per day for all miners other than miners in shafts, station cuttings, winzes and station tenders, and for all miners in shafts, station cutting, winzes and station tenders the wage rate shall be $4.50 per day.

6. When the average price of electrolytic copper shall be under 18 cents per pound, then the rate of wages shall be $3.50 per day for all miners except other than miners in shafts, station cutting, winzes and station tenders; and for all miners in shafts, station cutting, winzes and station tenders the wage rate shall be $4 per day and in no case shall the wages be less than specified in this section.

7. Should a miner's employment terminate by reason of voluntary quitting, discharge or other reason before the end of any calendar month, the rate of settlement in each case shall be as follows: The wage rate upon any settlement made for any part of the month up to and including the fifteenth of said month shall be based on the previous month's average for electrolytic copper. The wage rate for any settlement made for any part of a month extending beyond the fifteenth of said month shall be made for the whole time of employment in said month at a rate based on the average price of electrolytic copper for the first fifteen days of the calendar month of settlement.

8. Should the authority used in ascertaining the market price of copper appear to either party of this agreement to be false or wrong at any time, then either party shall have the right to request that a representative be appointed by each party and those two persons to appoint a third, a majority of whom shall decide on the method or means to be used in arriving at the correct market price of copper for the purposes of this agreement.

9. This agreement shall remain in force and effect for a period of five years from and after April 1, 1907, and thereafter until thirty days notice shall be given by either party of his desire to terminate the agreement.

This agreement was never formally voted on by the members of Butte Miners' Union, but through the influence of the companies who laid off their men with instructions how to vote on such occasion, the union constitution was so amended as to conform to the main requirements of the agreement. This sort of work was usually done at special meetings. At the time this particular agreement was supposed to have been adopted, the constitution of the Western Federation of Miners provided, Section 3, Article V, "Any contract or agreement entered into between the members of any local union and their employers, as a final settlement of any difficulty or trouble that may occur between them shall not be considered valid or binding until the same shall have the approval of the Executive Board of the Western Federation of Miners."

The Butte agreement was never submitted to the Executive Board for its approval, it was never endorsed, but stood as a bad example and a menace to the organization until the following convention which met in Denver, June 10, 1907, where we find the following record:

Resolution No. 82, page 261, W. F. M. proceedings, 15th annual convention:

Contracts entered into between the employing class and the working class are of benefit only to the former. Such contracts divide the workers in the struggle with their exploiters, chain one body of workers in subjection while war is being waged by another body; often compels one union to scab upon another union; destroys the class instinct of the worker; leads the works by a false sense of temporary security to cease taking an active interest in the affairs of their organization, while such contracts are in force and has absolutely no place in progressive labor organizations; therefore be it

Resolved, by the fifteenth annual convention of the Western Federation of Miners, That any and all signed contracts or verbal agreements for any specified length of time that may have been entered into between any local union or unions of the Western Federation of Miners are by this convention declared null and void.

This resolution was carried by a vote of 325 for, 25 against.

The constitution was amended to read:

Section 4, Article V—No local union or unions of the Western Federation of Miners shall enter into any signed contract or verbal agreement for any specified length of time with their employers.

The opinions and comments of the delegates at the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the W. F. M. were sincere and forceful and are as pertinent at this time to the question of binding contractual relations with the employing class as they were the day they were uttered. Here are a few of the thoughts as expressed by the delegates on that occasion, as taken from the stenographic report:

Tom Corra—(Local No. 10):

I know that whenever a local union enters into an agreement with a corporation of any kind it is always for the interests and benefit of the corporation, and whenever it suits their purpose to break such a contract they do it with a snap of their finger.

P. C. Rawlings—(Local No. 106):

If the Western Federation of Miners will go upon record that it will not bind and assess to slave chains its members, then this convention will have done a magnificent work for humanity.
Archie Barry—(Local No. 38):
There is no necessity for putting a time limit on a contract. In my opinion it is the only proper settlement which ought to be made between the employer and the employes.
Richard Bunny—(Local No. 2):
It is a well-known fact that the giants of the railroad organization and of the bituminous and anthracite coal districts of America could furnish us with sufficient proof to show the folly of all this all along the line and demonstrate that the contract system has proven a ruinous policy wherever introduced into any labor organization in the country.
J. C. Lowney—(Local No. 1):  
I was opposed at all times to enter into this contract. I say this contract was not entered into voluntarily.
P. J. Duffy—(Local No. 1):
Yes Sir, and it is not the Miners' Union that in any way brought around the word 'contract,' but it was the managers of the Amalgamated Copper Co. that did the same.
F. H. Little—(Local 159):
It was only here a few weeks ago that in San Francisco workmen who were bound up with a contract with a corporation were expelled from their union because they wouldn't scab on the telephone girls.
Thomas Booher—(Local No. 1):
The Hod Carriers of Butte, Montana, receive a dollar and a half to two dollars a day more than the man who takes his life in his hands to go down under ground...I challenge any member of this organization to show me the time since the Standard Oil Company took its first breath of life that that corporation has not been one of murder and rampage from the Atlantic to Pacific ocean.
Ed O'Byrne—(Local No. 1):
I contend that nobody at this present time has got any right whatever to make a contract or agreement that shall bind men to come for five years hence or one year hence...A man who has got nothing but his labor power for sale and his employer cannot enter into a contract.
Joe Shannon—(Local No. 1):
We are worse off today than when we were working for $3.50 per day. We had a committee appointed to see the business men and the merchants, and of course they gave us that little tune that they wouldn't raise prices any more unless they were forced to.
Charles Bunting—(Local No. 180):
I will say at the start that I am absolutely opposed to any time agreement...We turned the thing down and since that time we have got a wage schedule which we consider as good as any in the country. There will be no time agreements in the boundary district.
R. Randall—(Local 320) :
It is my opinion that the time will come in the near future when the membership of the Western Federation of Miners will be bound down by contract the same as are the United Mine Workers if we do not take this action.
Albert Ryan—(Local 101):
I claim that no local of the Western Federation of Miners or any working class organization has a right of any kind to make a contract with the masters.
John H. Bottomly—(Local 16):
I was opposed to the time contract and I fought the time contract as hard as I knew how.
Thomas Reilly—(Local 117):
Ryan made some such remark but that they didn't want to prolong the five years—didn't want to reduce it to five years—they wanted a ten-year contract.
Vincent St. John-(Local 220):
The only thing is for this organization to go on record as making it more clear and standing irrevocably as it has in the past—standing squarely against any contract of any kind being entered into by any employer and his employes represented by the Western Federation of Miners.
J. D. Cannon—(Local 106):
I have got the idea that since this contract was entered into it has been demonstrated on the floor of this convention that at no time and no place should the laboring class enter into a contract with the employer. Every time you enter into such a contract you are driving a nail in the coffin of the laboring class.
W. A. Willis-(Local 220):
There was a time when I couldn't see any danger in the verbal agreement; I always thought there was a great deal of danger in the written agreement. Since that time I have found there is danger in any kind of an agreement which a labor organization may enter into with their employers. The only thing that gives the labor organization any power is what they can wrest from their employers by their economic power, and whenever you tie your hands by any kind of agreement you lose that power.
J. C. Knust-(Local No. 245):
There is no doubt but that this motion is going to carry by a majority, that it will be carried by a great majority, and the greater the majority the better. Whenever you leave it open to the different organizations of the Western Federation of Miners to enter into contract, you leave it open for graft to come into the organization.
For five years after 1907 one of the fundamental principles of the W. F. of M. was "no contracts with the employing class." During these five years many changes had taken place in the W. F. of M. and its policies. The one time militant organization withdrew from the Industrial Workers of the World and became affiliated with the A. F. of L. From that moment it became poisoned and polluted with the virus of the pure and simple trade union that has representatives in the Civic Federation proclaiming the identity of interest of capital and labor. This cancerous environment resulted in a change of policy and the following was adopted in the Twentieth Annual convention:


Whereas, Every year the Western Federation of Miners spends thousands of dollars for organizing purposes, and

Whereas, The results obtained from the expenditure of this large sum of money and the energetic effort of the organization along this line are comparatively few and insignificant owing to the lack of a well-defined policy on the part of the organization in dealing with the industrial problems and in the adjustment of difficulties arising between the members of this organizations and the employers, and

Whereas, Experience in the past twenty years has demonstrated to us the nonstability of our local unions under the present system of organization; therefore be it

Resolved, by this the twentieth annual convention of the Western Federation of Miners, That we recommend the adoption of the United Mine Workers system in the adjustment of any and all industrial disputes that may arise in the future between members of this organization and the employers; and be it

Resolved, That a special committee of five be appointed by the chairman of this convention to revise our constitution and amend the same to conform with the sentiment expressed in this resolution; and be it further

Resolved, That we as delegates to this convention recommend to the rank and file of this organization to adopt the same.

Moved by Secretary-Treasurer Ernest Mills, seconded by Delegate Rodrick McKenzie, No. 86, that the resolution be adopted. Total vote, Yes, 225; No, 5; Absent, 4; No vote, 8.

The stakes are driven, the constitution of the W. F. of M. is again amended. Now read it:
Local unions or groups of local unions may enter into wage agreements for a specified time, providing such agreements have the approval of the Executive Board. Negotiations for agreements must be made between the representatives of the local or locals affected, and the employers, with at least one member of the Executive Board or representative of the general organization.
This was the dynamic force that destroyed the Miners' Union Hall in Butte. It was a long fuse that was split and primed with the "quick stuff" in the Twentieth Annual Convention. It took years to burn through, but it finally went off. It was the reaction against the adoption of the infamous contract system that brought in its train the blacklisting rustling card used as a collecting medium by the company store—to secure a rustling card a man is subjected to an examination, second only to the Bertillon.

The members of Butte No. 1 were opposed to the indignity and humiliation of submitting to investigation; they voted against the rustling card 11 to 1, but local and general officials ignored this mighty protest. Then came the final imposition, every man was compelled to have a paid- up W. F. of M. card before he could go to work. There were thousands of men in Butte broke, searching for work; a paid-up card stood between them and the chance of a job. It had always been the custom throughout the mining camps of the West to grant a man 30 or 60 days to square up.

A great mass meeting was held, a vote was taken on the question of showing cards; 6,348 voted no—243 yes. Still the officials offered no relief or protection against these outrages. Then came the revolt, a spontaneous uprising of the masses. Butte Miners' Union No. 1, W. F. of M. fell. It had been dedicated to the Rights of Man, it served as an Altar of Mammon, and crumbled of its own corruption.

Out of the ruins a new union has been born. May the bitter experiences of the past make the members more vigilant of their interests in the future, and let us hope the lesson has been well learned and that the workers must depend upon themselves alone for the advancement of their class.

The following letters to the REVIEW are from men who have been members of Butte No. 1 for many years:

Letter Number 1.

THE revolt which culminated in the tragedies of June 13 and 23 when the Miners' Union hall was wrecked and one man killed, and several wounded by shots fired from the hall is the result of causes dating back for a space of eighteen years.

The causes which stand out most glaring are first, the whitewashing of a local secretary by the executive board of the W. F. of M. in the face of the fact that one of his bondsmen made good a portion of the shortage; second, the connivance of the W. F. of M. officials with local officials to prevent legally elected delegates from taking their seats at a convention; third, the complete reversal of the executive board in their position concerning time contracts between local unions and employing companies; and specifically, the championing of a constitutional amendment by Vice-President Mahoney making legal all such contracts between employes and employers; fourth, the evident connivance of local union officials with Anaconda Copper Mining Company in inaugurating the infamous card system in the Butte district, and the apathy of the W. F. of M. officials in failing to resist the same.

The affairs of the union during all these years, except for a few short intervals, have been in the control of men who were at all times subservient to the will of the employing companies, and any proposition having for its object the betterment of conditions of the mine workers was promptly smothered. If any assistance was needed by the officials to do the smothering, it was furnished gratis by the companies, who sent a sufficient number of lackeys down from the mines to the meeting, allowing their time to go on as usual.

President Moyer states that these conditions were never made known to him and as a consequence he made no effort to correct them. He well knows that those who opposed corporate control of the organization sent a man to the Victor convention of the W. F. of M. in 1912 to protest against these conditions and that the convention expelled him from the W. F. of M. It comes with poor grace from Mr. Moyer at this late day to plead ignorance. He was perfectly aware of the rottenness of the Butte Union's affairs, and not only did he not attempt to cleanse them, but by his attitude he led the membership to infer that he condoned them. All his strength in the Butte district is drawn from that subservient element, as the true union men have long since given him up as hopeless, and this very element with which he now trains consists of those who deserted him when his life and those of Haywood and Pettibone were hanging in the balance at Boise.

As a climax to all the abuses herein recited, the final one was the action of the President in declaring lost a motion, which was plainly carried, for the use of the voting machines at the election of local officers.

The futility of further attempts to right things being apparent, the membership refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the union at the mines, and as a consequence were ordered off the job by the mine managers.

This action resulted in a secession of the membership in general from the old union and the formation of a new union known as the Butte Mine Workers' Union.

Prominent among the seceders are men who for many years have been noted for their working class loyalty.

The membership of the new organization has now passed the four thousand mark, and new recruits are coming in rapidly. It promises to be an organization of class conscious workers which will be an effective weapon in the struggle which is being so bitterly waged the world over.

Letter Number 2

THE starting of the affair was due to the condition that existed here. Contracts, rustling card system and Moyer and his bunch standing for it. We were always paying assessments to strikes in different places and nothing won—South Dakota, Utah and Michigan. Boys were paying a shift's wages together with dues and local assessments amounting to about $5.00 a month. They did not kick until Moyer kept the assessments on after the strike had been called off.

The Anaconda Mining Company controlled the so-called union here by packing the meetings with their stools and the good ones could not get a look-in. At the recent election the stools got away with the judges and clerks again, as usual, so we withdrew the whole slate and let them have it all, so there wasn't any opposition and no need of election at all except the ballot on headquarters.

There wasn't 500 ballots cast all day, although the stools gave to the papers that there was 3,200 votes cast, which everybody knew was a lie. The judges had a swell time boozing up at the expense of the slaves.

The boys were all sore and the bunch at the Speculator mine said: "The next time the delegates come up here to examine cards, we don't show them any more." And they didn't, so the foreman sent the whole shift home. They got busy with the night shift, which went out to work, but wouldn't show cards, and they were sent home. But before the bunch left the mine they kicked the heads off the delegates and some body guards they had along with them.

The two shifts marched back down town and held a meeting in the Auditorium. It was decided to take a referendum vote as to whether or not they would continue to show W. F. M. cards at the mines in order to work. The turn out was great. Total number votes cast, 6,633. Votes cast against showing W. F. M. cards at mines, 6,348; for showing cards, 243. There were 42 spoiled ballots.

At a change day meeting of 5,000 a motion to reorganize into a union to be known as Butte Mine Workers' Union was carried without a dissenting vote and temporary officers were elected.

Headquarters were immediately secured and 4,000 members have been enrolled to date (July 7).

Of course, Moyer showed up on the scene to save his meal ticket, with some of his official bodyguards. He arranged a meeting in the old hall and 150 went up, including his bodyguard and special deputies furnished by the courthouse bunch. There were thousands gathered in front of the hall to see who would attend, but nobody was interfered with.  

The trouble started in about half an hour, when one of their own members started up the stairs to the meeting and was shot down by one of Moyer's gun men. A minute or so after one of his bunch stuck a rifle out of a window up stairs and started shooting into the crowd on the street, killing one man and wounding several.

Some few fellows in the crowd had pocket guns and started shooting at the "gun" in the window and in a short time there were hundreds of guns in action from the crowd on the street. They thought the walls too thick for rifles and six-shooters, so someone hollered, "If we can't vote Moyer out of office, we will blast him out." And Moyer's meal ticket was some sight when they got through with it. Moyer and his "guns" made their get-away down the fire ladder in the rear into an auto and never stopped until they landed in Helena, 75 miles away.

The next we heard of him was through the Governor who wired Muckey McDonald that Moyer had called and requested him to send soldiers to Butte.

Butte Copper Mine, drawing, ISR, Aug 1914

International Socialist Review
(Chicago, Illinois)
 -of August 1914
(search with "Revolt at Butte")

See also:


The Masses
(New York, New York)
 of August 1914
Article by Frank Bohn

Big Bill Haywood
Images from Haywood's Article
 (see link above)

The Workers Song-Dropkick Murphys

We're the first ones to starve, we're the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
And we're always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat's about


Originally posted to Hellraisers Journal on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shamrock American Kossacks, In Support of Labor and Unions, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and History for Kossacks.

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