Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"The union miners, in self-defense, returned the fire..."


H.L. Hughes Tells About the Coeur
d'Alene Strikes.


He Spoke Before an Audience of
Workingmen and Sympathizers
in Foskett's Hall--He is on a
Tour of the Northwest.

     A large audience of workingmen and the friends of labor gathered last evening in Foskett's hall to hear the story of the Coeur d'Alene labor situation from 1892 to the present time. The lecturer was Hon. H.L. Hughes, a bright newspaper man from Wallace, who last winter represented the people from Shoshone county in the Idaho legislature. At this time he is touring the Northwest with the purpose of presenting the situation to miners from the union's standpoint, in the hope that a thorough understanding of it will keep experienced men out of the country. This policy, he states, has been heretofore very successful.

   "Many suppose." said Senator Hughes. "that the troubles in the Coeur d'Alenes have been adjusted, but this is true only in part. A strike is still on at Wardner and at Mullan the one that began a year ago last November, and which we hope will result in ultimate victory.

   "A very strong contrast exists between the situation on Canyon creek where the mine-owners are paying the union rate of wages and at Wardner and Mullan, where they are trying to force a reduction of $1 per day. The former case presents a wholesome lesson for both capital and labor. The mine-owners are working their property with the most satisfactory results; the miners are contented with the good wages they receive; all cause for friction has been removed and all are satisfied and prosperous.

   "The non-union mines present quite a different state of affairs. The operation of their properties is far from satisfactory, even aside from the vast sums of money they are expending in fighting the union. In the case of these mines the union is using the same methods in vogue heretofore, and by purely moral persuasion have kept experienced miners from entering the employ of the companies. The results are that these miners are struggling along with incompetent workmen, the force now employed by the Bunker Hill & Sullivan mine at Wardner being unused to mining, is producing not more than one-third the former output of the mine, and a careful estimate shows he company to be losing somewhere !rom $250 to $300 a day. Just how long this company will care to go on losing thousands of dollars monthly to defeat organised labor is hard to say, but loubtless, when it gets tired of this unequal warfare it will be glad enough to pay the wages, and by that time the union hopes to win a grand and honrable victory.

   "In the matter of this strike, Governor William J. McConnell, the republican chief magistrate of Idaho, has played a most disreputable part; in fact, he has done that which has perhaps never before been done by any other governor in the history of the American republic. He has organized two militia companies at the request of these companies, who compelled their employes to join them, to hold their places. He has time and again assisted these companies in their nefarious shemes to reduce wages, and in return expects them to assist him into the United States senate. For this reason He has tried to make it appear that the Labor unions in the Coeur d'Alenes were a lawless class, and he himself a 'bold, fearless, law-and-order governor.' But the working people of that country are not g[o]ing to fall into his trap so easily; they have no intention of committing any lawlessness, but propose to win the strike strictly on the merits of their cause."

   Of the former troubles Mr. Hughes said:

   "The strike had its beginning on Jan. 20, 1892, when the Mine Owners' association met and closed down all the producing mines that would consent to go into the scheme with them. Information was given out that this meeting was for the purpose of discussing freight rates, and that the mines were closed down to force concessions from the railroad companies. Subsequent developments had, however, shown that it was for no other purpose than that of breaking the backbone of the Miners' union by forcing a few months of idleness upon its members and then resuming operations at a reduced rate of wages.

   "March 17, 1892, the Mine Owners' association met and issued a lengthy manifesto setting forth the conditions affecting them; silver was 90 cents an ounce and lead was $4.20 per hundred, and they proposed resuming operation April 1 at $3.10 a day for miners and $3 for carmen and shovelers, being a reduction of 60 cents a day on the wages of the latter. These they claimed were not skilled labor and should not receive the same wages as miners. On the other hand the union claimed that carmen sad shovelers did equal service, ran fully as much risk to loss of health, life and limb and were entitled to the wages of $3.50 per day. Now the question would naturally arise: Were the men justified in demanding than their former wage rate of $3.50 a day for all men working under ground be maintained? The facts in the case would certainly demand an alternative answer. At the time these mines were closed down lead was 4.17-1/2 and silver 92-3/4 cents. Since then these same mines have been able to operate under the same rate of wages, the same freight rates, and with the prices of lead as low as $2.90 ad silver 59 cents. Still, these mines seem to be prosperous; they are making extenslve improvements, seem anxious to run and certainly they musthe paying their owners handsomely or else this would not be so."

   In discussing the riot of July 11 at Gem, the speaker charged that it was caused by the tools and servants of the Mine Owners' association, who were made desperate by the failure of their attempt to import men to work the mines.

   "As some union miners were going to their work in the morning they were fired upon by one of the association's armed guards. The union miners, in self-defense, returned the fire, and the fight was soon raging in all its fury; the union men were fighting in the open, while the association guards were barricaded behind the machinery in the Frisco mill and behind long ricks of cord wood at the Gem mine. In order to dislodge their enemies the Frisco mill was blown up. With this the guards surrendered, their arms were stacked and they were quietly shipped out of the camp. Three union and three non-union men were killed in this fight and the Frisco mill was damaged $20,000 by the explosion.

   "The non-union forces and armed guards at Wardner surrendered without offering any resistance. Martial law was hastily declared, and the leaders of the union surrendered themselves to the authorities. The United States court for Idaho sentenced 12 of them to imprisonment in the Ada county jail from terms varying from six to eight months. Four were sent to the reformatory at Detroit. Web, Leisure was tried before the district court to the murder of Ivory Beane, one of the non-union men. This trial brought up the issue of the great trouble. Leisure was acquitted, and the result of the trial was taken as a thorough vindication of the Miners' union. In the meantime the cases of the men who had been sentenced by Judge Beatty of the United Statee district court for Idaho, had been appealed to the United States supreme court, and on March 6, 18[8?]3. the court decided in favor of the imprisoned miners and ordered them released.

   "Now." said Mr. Hughes. "while the great strike of 1892. and especially the ill-fitted 11th of July. must ever be recalled with feelings of deepest regret, yet the members of the union can always feel that they were in the right; and although the plutocratic press and tools of corporations may cry anarchy, red-handed murder and advance their false and damnable accusations by such malicious innuendo, we have the satisfaction of knowing that the supreme court--the highest tribunal of justice in the land--was compelled to turn these persecuted miners loose from the Ada county Jail and from the filth-reeking reformatory at Detroit."

   In addition to the lecture William Fitspatrick sang two solos, which were received with hearty applause as appropriate to the occasion, entitled "The Homestead Strike" and "The Miner's Wife."

   At the conclusion of Senator Hughes address impromptu speeches were called for from Judge J.M. Kennedy, George M. Dallas of Butte and ex-President W.J. Weeks of the Butte Miners' union. The gentlemen responded with brief but appropriate and timely remarks.

   If possible Senator Hughes will address a meeting to-night In Carroll.

[The Anaconda Standard, Anaconda, Montana, Tuesday Morning, March 24, 1896. Vol. VII.--No. 183. Pg. 2]

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