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This week in history: 25 years ago: Phelps Dodge strike in 18th month

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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-24-09 01:39 AM
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This week in history: 25 years ago: Phelps Dodge strike in 18th month
Edited on Thu Dec-24-09 01:48 AM by Hannah Bell
This week in 1984, the Arizona, copper corporation Phelps Dodge announced it would shut down its Morenci smelter, laying off 450 strikebreakers...

To crush the strike, Democratic Governor Bruce Babbitt sent in the National Guard the year before, including tanks and helicopters, to see to it that strikebreakers could carry on production. The striking miners and their communities lived under virtual martial law conditions.

The Arizona Copper Mine Strike of 1983

The Arizona Copper Mine Strike of 1983 began as a bargaining dispute between the Phelps Dodge Corporation and a group of union copper miners. The subsequent strike lasted nearly three years and is regarded as an important moment in the history of the United States labor movement.

On April 7, 1982, Phelps Dodge announced it would lay off 3,400 of its workers in Texas and Arizona.

Over one year later, in May 1983, the copper mining company began negotiations with the United Steelworkers and other unions in Phoenix, Arizona. The unions agreed to a freeze of their members' wages for three years, but attempted to bargain for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) and to prevent job combinations...

The subsequent negotiations with the unions failed to lead to an agreement, and on midnight of July 30 a strike began...Thousands of miners walked out and a picket line was formed at the Morenci Mine. The next day, Phelps Dodge increased security personnel in and around the mine.

Within days miners were subject to unlawful arrests, firings, evictions, and undercover surveillance by the Arizona Criminal Intelligence Systems Agency. At the beginning of August, Phelps Dodge announced that they would be hiring permanent replacement workers...Meanwhile, the local government passed injunctions limiting both picketing and demonstrations at the mine.

On Monday, August 8, approximately 1,000 strikers and their supporters gathered at the gate to the mine in response....On the morning of August 19, military vehicles, tanks, helicopters, 426 state troopers and 325 National Guard members arrived in Clifton and Morenci as part of "Operation Copper Nugget" to break the strike.

Strikers at the gate were unable to prevent the replacement workers from entering the mine. Eight days later, 10 strikers were arrested in Ajo and charged with rioting...

After a series of confrontations and controversies, the strike officially ended on February 19, 1986, when the National Labor Relations Board rejected appeals from the unions attempting to halt decertification.

Shortly after the strike ended, world copper prices began to climb. This and the introduction of new mining technology led to a marked increase in profits at Phelps Dodge. While their annual profits in 1985 were just $29.5 million, profits rapidly climbed to $205.7 million in 1987 and $420 million in 1988....

The Economics of Labor Markets and The Transformation of American Industrial Relations singled out the Arizona strike as the start of overt company strikebreaking in the 1980s. Journalists referred to the miners' strike as a precedent for subsequent labor failures.

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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-24-09 01:45 AM
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1. You'd think this was a story from the 1920s
An impressive show of strike breaking law enforcement even today


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