Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Punk music fights against poverty" at the Amador Music Hub

Mother Lode progressive and Zapatistas frontman Nick Pistoia
Amador Ledger Dispatch writer Gwen Bohdan published a great blog about the upcoming show this Tuesday.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Introducing Smalltown Punks Against Rural Poverty

By David Roddy

The light side of Vicious.
The children of British firefighters could expect to receive little loot on Christmas Day, 1977. The preceding month, the Fire Brigades Union, which represented around 30,000 workers, declared a national strike after the government ignored a requested pay raise. In working class West Yorkshire, the infamous Sex Pistols gave the children of striking firefighters—as well as the laid-off workers and one-parent families—a free benefit show, along with loads of free merchandise surrounding the release of their first album, “Nevermind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.” How the spitting, swearing, drug adled Sex Pistols translated “Anarchy in the UK” into a free show for the children of a striking union may not be immediately obvious.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Occupy Calaveras" in the news.

You can read the coverage by the Union Democrat here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy Calaveras!

The Calaveras Enterprise's video coverage of a recent "Occupy Calaveras" protest:

Occupy Calaveras from Calaveras Enterprise on Vimeo.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Occupy Journal of a Country Radical: "Occupy Sacramento" October 15, 2011

By Michael Israel


After I arrived in Sacramento on the 15th, I joined a large crowd surrounding the Capitol steps. I started looking through the crowd for fellow foothill activists. “Mike!” I heard Alan’s voice, somehow I had managed to walk right by and not see him. The rest of the foothill contingent drove back up early.

Cindy Sheehan joined us as the night wore on. I met up with some of the arrestees from the first night, and we catch up and shoot the shit. Some guy sung “Rebel Yell,” and though I’m not a fan of the song,  the guy actually sounded good. I think this was the same night with the drum circle too, which is not really my thing either. I am a Debbie Downer protestor; I guess it was good to see people with energy though.

My Path to Freedom

By Meghan O'Keefe

         WE WILL STAND
In 2010 I had been earning six figures for about ten years, owned a ritzy house east of Cleveland Ohio, and didn't think much about money. However, the poverty in Cleveland quickly wore away my "happily-ever-after". I wanted to get off the grid and out of a lifestyle that was isolating me from authenticity, freedom of expression, and my mission to Repair The World. Thus, I left my partner and my life and shortly after was laid-off.

Why Occupy Amador?

Originally published in the Ledger-Dispatch by David Roddy

Occupy Amador, Nov. 17 2011. Photo Courtesy of Alan Willard
Reckless Wall Street speculation and deregulation gave California some of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the country. This disaster exacerbates the strain already placed on working families by three decades of neoliberalism. I believe our political and economic system must fundamentally change to ensure prosperity, equality, and freedom for future generations, and the Occupy Wall Street movement is a positive first step towards building a brighter future. The recession hit the Mother Lode particularly hard. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Amador, Calaveras, and Tuolumne average an unemployment rate of 13.6 percent, significantly higher than California’s 11.9 percent as well as the U.S. rate of 9.1 percent. Foreclosure rates in the tri-county area average every one in 864 homes, a drastic increase from previous years. Moreover, the slashing of public funds by zealous right-wing politicians steals the essential services needed to care for those most at risk in our community.

Our local governments have done little to challenge this toxic agenda. Unfortunately, start-up businesses cannot absorb these numbers, and with the diminished consumer demand associated with lower wages and high unemployment, there is little incentive to supply services anyways. A national jobs program aimed full employment would significantly increase demand and relieve the millions unemployed. On a local level, community owned enterprises could anchor capital in our region by selling shares only to residents. The solutions to the problems facing our economy must work on multiple levels, and the Occupy movement is opening the dialogue around them. As I write this, police are swarming Zuccotti Park in New York, but I have little doubt that the perseverance of the American people will overcome this setback. In Amador, residents are rallying in support of the movement, and will engage in protests in weeks to come.

To learn more about how you can help, visit or join the discussion at

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mother Lode Residents Attend Occupy Oakland General Strike

By Alan Willard

The whole world was definitely watching.  The Oakland mayor, cops, talking heads and general population found out just how much.  When the Occupy community in Oakland withstood the onslaught and then REBUILT, it was a true wakeup call to the 1%,  just how much the world cared. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Occupy Journal of a Country Radical: "Occupy Sonora" October 15, 2011

By Mike Israel

I woke up in my small Sonora apartment on the morning of October 15th. I had heard in the days prior that a group would be meeting, a few blocks from my place, to show their solidarity with Occupy Wall St. I shoveled down some oatmeal, chased it with a mug of water, and then set out.

 People sure are occupying the Courthouse Park, but it is not the crowd expected. It’s a Pro-life group, and they seem well organized. Matching shirts, plenty of leaflets, banners, even a band playing. I decide to kick back in the park and see if any OWS people show up.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Occupy Journal of a Country Radical: "Occupy Sacramento" October 8, 2011

By Michael Israel

David and half a shower curtain.
  I returned to Occupy Sacramento mid-afternoon, Saturday October 8th. I met in Cesar Chavez Park with a handful of other foothill activists, including Alan Willard and David Roddy. David and I  worked on making a banner behind Alan’s tent, which serves as a sort of base camp for us Mother Lode folks. Armed with paint, stencils and half a shower curtain, we set to work:


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of the IWW in the Mother Lode and the Jackson Socialistic Circle (Post 2)

Assassination and Repression in Idaho
By David Roddy

Idaho governor
Frank Steunenberg
Temperatures dropped to miserable in Caldwell, Idaho, as the days waned for the year of 1905. Indeed, the temperature hovered around 20 degrees that winter, and ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg must have been chilled in spite of his six foot frame as he walked home through the snow on the night of December 30th . As he opened the gate to his yard, however, the snow and ice around him superheated as a flash of light, heat, and sound stripped him of his senses.

Other townspeople rushed towards the blast, which shattered all the windows of his house facing the street. Lying face down by the gate, amongst broken glass, splintered wood, and singed cloth, they found the governor. He was naked, as the explosion had burned his clothes away but for a few singed rags. Red pulp hung from his thighs, and chunks of his obliterated legs lay strewn around him.

“Who shot me?” he murmured to the growing crowd around him, before telling them to turn him over. Twenty minutes later, he was dead.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Occupy Journal of a Country Radical: "Occupy Sacramento" October 6, 2011

By Michael Israel
On-site mugshot after being arrested at Occupy Sacramento
"When inspecting the bits of plant and other organic matter on my shoes, I was asked if that was where I “hid my bud,” I let the officer know he was only touching livestock manure."
October  6th 2011
First Night of Occupy Sacramento

  The  Occupy Sacramento “open mic” sessions are long and scattered. Everyone wants to speak, to vent, to declare why they are there. The crowd is full of first time activists. Many appear nervous, anxious, but you can see the swelling pride and inspiration in them. The strength of this movement is its ability to draw out more than just the regular batch of activists, the familiar faces of past struggles. It is drawing to the streets, first timers young and old from all walks of life. I volunteer for a safety/security shift.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of the IWW in the Mother Lode and the Jackson Socialistic Circle (Post 1)

By David Roddy
Two-Gun Men from the West

Cowboy, Homesteader, Miner, and Socialist
"Big Bill" Haywood
Many of the gold mineworkers of Amador County were not simply interested in better wages and the eight-hour day. They dreamed of a movement that could break above the surface of their subterranean world and unite all working people. But socialism wasn't confined to the fantasies of a few dreamers, in fact, the socialist movement in the first decades of the 20th century was inexorably bound to organized labor. The Western Federation of Miners, under which all of Amador County’s hard-rock mineworkers organized, officially aligned itself with the Socialist Party in 1900, and the union’s leadership tended to be active members in the party.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Confronting Rural Poverty in the California Foothills

Folk musician, poet, and photojournalist Larry Towell and audio journalist and author Sandy Tolan visited Tuolumne County, one of several "mother lode" counties that run along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, to document the increasing rural poverty that haunts the elderly in these parts. The resulting multimedia essay is necessary viewing for all American citizens:

Hard Choices
To learn more about how you can help fight poverty or find help in the Mother Lode, please visit the websites of the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency, the Amador Interfaith Food Bank, and the Resource Connection.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mother Lode Progressives Arrested in “Occupy Sacramento” Protest Against Wall. St.

Mike Israel, second to last on the left. (Photo from Paul Burke)

Two of the 19 activists arrested in the first hours of Friday were foothill residents involved in Mother Lode Progressives. Twenty-two year old Mike Israel, who cofounded the group with me, and Sac State professor Paul Burke, one of the chairs for the Progressive Alliance, a group based out of Sacramento with which we are affiliated.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Tea Party vs. History

By David Roddy

History, by definition, has already happened. While intelligent revisionism and creative thinking can enlighten our understanding, contemporary forces cannot modify history itself. Those that try, deny the existence of an objective reality, and do so because, in the iconic words of George Orwell: “He who controls the past, controls the future."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Agenda 21 Bupkiss in Lodi, California

Accoding to

On Sept. 7, the Lodi City Council delayed approving $120,000 in federal grants to write a climate action plan after hearing from almost a dozen activists, most of whom cited Agenda 21. The council asked city staff for more information about Agenda 21 and whether other cities are, in fact, digging in their heels against the new regulations.
Read more of this article here.

For the Mother Lode Progressives coverage of this strange attack on sustainable development, check out:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fashionable worrywarts | Ledger Dispatch

Fashionable worrywarts | Ledger Dispatch

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 13)

1886 engraving of the Haymarket Affair
Ending the Strike
By David Roddy

On May 1, 1903, the Amador Dispatch reported that the great Amador gold mine strike had ended. The date of this announcement was frustratingly fitting, as exactly 18 years previously the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions declared a standard eight-hour workday, prompting mass marches and strikes across the country and culminating into clashes between Chicago protesters and police in what is now known as the “Haymarket Affair.” Workers lost the fight for an eight-hour workday in 1886 in the United States, and the miners of Amador County lost the fight in 1903.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Brief Glossary of Buzzwords that Terrify the Tea Party (and Why They are Ridiculous)

By David Roddy


Last month, national Tea Partisan in Chief Glenn Beck warned his television audience of a creeping threat to their liberty; a U.N. sustainable action plan ominously named “Agenda 21,” was taking over America:
“Reading through the pages [of Agenda 21], it becomes clear "sustainable development" is just a really nice way of saying "centralized control over all of human life on planet Earth."
[Fox News, Glenn Beck, 6/15/11, from]
Liberal media watchdog speculated that Beck was basing his theory off the wild-eyed rants of conspiracy monger Alex Jones, who has also theorized that FEMA is building concentration camps, the government helped orchestrate the Oklahoma City Bombings to discredit the militia movement, and that the world is controlled by a secret occult cabal. While it does seem Beck has repeatedly poached Jones’ material, and it is certainly tempting to link him to an even crazier conspiracist, I suspect he was simply responding to the previously existing concerns of his audience.

Glenn’s focus on Agenda 21 was news to the beltway media, but for rural politicians and activists, the conspiracy is nothing new. Despite the popular image of the Tea Party as Astroturf paid for by energy and financial corporations, there is a strong agrarian current unacknowledged by the official organs of the movement. In the forgotten corners of rural America, local Tea Parties have begun to fight against what they see to be an assault on United States sovereignty by the United Nations and the liberal elite.

Right-wing populist conspiracism has been a political force in America for well over a century, and the current globalist conspiracy perpetuated by the Tea Party is just the end of a long rope of interwoven imaginary plots that stretches back to the Civil War. The current narrative, while ignoring the blatant antisemitism of its predecessors, still hinges on scapegoating community members as “agents” of negative change, namely “removing people from their land.”

This rural strain of the Tea Party movement believes that the United Nations is secretly taking over America, namely by chipping away private property rights in the name of “sustainable development.” To aid in masking their insidious agenda from an unconscious public, the plotters use “nice and fuzzy” buzzwords in place of language that would reveal their true objectives. For the sake of convenience, below is a list of some of these words, as well as a brief explanation of what the Tea Party thinks they mean and why they are wrong. It is important that we progressives can understand and counter this narrative when it is presented by our tricorne hat attired neighbors at public meetings.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thoughts on Rebuilding the “American Dream”

Van Jones
By David Roddy

Thomas Jefferson’s promise of a new government “deriving just powers from the consent of the governed” under the premise that “all men are created equal,” seems to have fallen short. After years of recession and rampant unemployment followed by waves of right-wing austerity and xenophobia, the Dream, to some, needs rebuilding.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 12)

A Week of Confusion

By David Roddy (Previous posts in this series here.)

The week between Friday the 17th and 24th of April 1903 shut down the gold mining communities of Amador County. Until the mine-owners guaranteed an eight-hour workday, higher wages, and recognition of the Jackson and Amador Miners Unions, the miners refused to work.

1883 cartoon depicting the American workman tied to the fire of monopoly.
From Puck Magazine.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Glenn Beck and the "Agenda 21" Conspiracy

The far right's delusional obsession with the United Nations taking over America with their sustainable development initiative, "Agenda 21," has inserted itself into rural county and municipal government, as we have previously discussed here and here.

Now, in his last days of broadcasting, Tea Partisan Glenn Beck has picked up the conspiracy brought it into our national discourse, from

Beck Conspiracy Theory: U.N.'s Agenda 21 Will Result In "Centralized Control Over All Of Human Life"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What are some specific, local solutions to local problems? Guest Post by Alan R. Willard

Alan R. Willard is a 57 year old long
term resident of greater Bummerville
interested in community, organic living,
and a sustainable future.
Currently a care giver with a
micro-business, garden, family, and is
an active board member with the
Blue Mountain Coalition for Youth & Families.
By Alan R. Willard

How to create local solutions has been debated in our Dist. 2 community vision process in north east Calaveras County for the last 10 years at least. In fact it has been a subject of conversation in communities all over the USA. As our economic crisis continues to unfold it will be increasingly important to pay attention to the kind of helpful process’s we worked with stating in 99 and 2000 with the Rocky Mountain Institute , we called economic renewal. This set us on the road to answering the local problems, local solutions question.

One suggestion might be finding ways to get solar to more people. I think of all our power outages this last winter and wonder if there's a way to combine decentralized electricity production and putting the most vulnerable grid power lines under ground.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 11)

By David Roddy (Previous posts in this series here.)

Sheriff T.K. Norman and the Jackson Miners Union

The year was 1903, the month was April, and the gold miners of Amador County were on strike. Hundreds of miners, primarily Italian and Austrian immigrants, patrolled the parameter of the mines as other miners made their way to work, pleading with them to join the strike. By April 17, all the mines around Jackson were closed.

Conservative forces in early 20th century America painted European immigrants
as stealing from Anglo-American wage earners. Mine owners and newspapers in
Amador County blamed such immigrants for labor upheavals.
Image from Judge Magazine.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Tea Party Politics will Burn Rural California to the Ground

By David Roddy

The smell of smoke
hanging low in the air on a dry summer evening is the most terrifying sensation of country living. It is an acrid smell, accompanied by a soft shade of brown blanketing the sky and the incessant buzzing of helicopters searching for any pool of water large enough to fill their buckets. If you get the right viewing angle, perhaps by climbing a roof, you can look out over the hills and treetops to the source of the tumult. A single column of clouds standing unnervingly still in the distance, colored with shades of gray, brown, and black in disgusting contrast with the usual bright white summer afternoon thunderheads.

Fire is uninterested in human economic ideologies. Its flames do not conform to the laws of supply and demand, nor are its effects tradable in the stock market. As a logical consequence of this inherent volatility, citizens have formed organizations for their mutual protection. The most obvious historical example of this is the public fire department. In 1993 Californian citizens, state agencies, insurance companies, and non-profit groups launched the California Fire Safe Council, which aims to mobilize “Californians to protect their homes, communities and environments from wildfire.” Most Americans agree that such an organization is beneficial to rural communities susceptible to wildfires.

But if we believe right-wing activists gaining popularity with the Tea Party,
an international Communist conspiracy is fooling most Americans.

The need for cooperation over competition in fire management is problematic for those who believe infallibility of the marketplace, a faith most piously exhibited by the contemporary “Tea Party” movement. This dissonance has catalyzed an assault on various forms of fire prevention at the regional, state, and national levels of government.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Frog Jump! Here's a little repeated quote from Mark Twain!

Twain looking tough.
From wikimedia commons.
"Who are the oppressors? The few: the King, the capitalist, and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; the valuable personages; the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat…

When all the bricklayers, and all the machinists, and all the miners, and blacksmiths, and printers, and hod-carriers, and stevedores, and house-painters, and brakemen, and engineers, and conductors, and factory hands, and horse-car drivers, and all the shop-girls, and all the sewing-women, and all the telegraph operators; in a word all the myriads of toilers in whom is slumbering the reality of that thing which you call Power ... when these rise, call the vast spectacle by any deluding name that will please your ear, but the fact remains a Nation has risen."
   ~Mark Twain in an 1886 address to the early union Knights of Labor

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Teen and the Tryon(t): Guest Post by Kati Giblin

Note from David: Kati Giblin is a Calaveras High School senior who proposed with the schools Earth Club that Calaveras County adopt an official “Earth Week” to the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Tom Tryon met the proposal with a bizarre tirade about the evils of environmentalism. The Calaveras Enterprise, The Record, and The Union Democrat all picked up the story. In this exclusive Mother Lode Progressive guest post, Kati discusses how the incident changed her perspective of rural culture and politics.

About the Author:
I am eighteen years old and personally
quite liberal. I currently attend Calaveras
High School. I live in Valley Springs on
weekdays and Stockton on weekends.
In the Fall, I will move to
Northampton, MA to attend Smith College.

Weeks before I presented the Earth Club’s Earth Week resolution to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, I heard rumblings of controversy over the word “sustainability.” However, being an out-of-touch high school student, I firmly believed that nobody would question this resolution, despite its use of the word. After all, nobody in my realm of communication has doubted the existence of global warming or questioned the need for new sources of energy since around, say, 2006. And after all, this is California; we are only a few hours away from San Francisco, the city that banned plastic bags. Only the most out-of-touch, anti-progress, paranoid Tea Party patriots would raise any objection to the concept of sustainability, and they never leave their homes. Right?

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 10)

The union organizer as a noxious weed that
blooms every spring, from the conservative
Democrat "Puck Magazine."
By David Roddy

Note: See previous posts here.

April 17th, 1903
They posted the notices all around the mines of Sutter Creek and
Jackson, up and down the main streets of those towns, tacked onto church and city hall walls. The April rain smudged the ink, but the stark clarity of the message remained intact.

Strike Notice-Notice is hereby given to all men of Jackson district that a strike is declared on all mines and mills of Oneida, Zeila, Gwin, Kennedy, Central Eureka, and South Eureka Mines.
  Crews of around two mineworkers each guarded all the roads and trails leading to the mines, turning around men on foot and horseback on their way to work in the morning. The strike was on.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Young in Amador: Guest Post by Nolan Davis

By Nolan Davis

They say everyone is entitled to their opinion

About me:
19 years old, raised in Amador County, liberal...
almost socialist. My beliefs came from watching
the economy crumble and seeing
the rich get all the tax breaks.

However, when the opinion is against what is considered the norm the group, does the opinion really matter?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Jackass Hill Convention: Guest Post by Will Moore

About the author:
I was born in the labor movement.
My father was a depression survivor,
Roosevelt Democrat, and union organizer
for the CIO in the 1930’s.
  They were organizing a furniture factory
in Upper Michigan, The Lloyd Company.
They took Lloyd out on a long strike
.Nine months after the Lloyd strike there
was a baby-boom in that town.
I was one of those “strike babies,” and I’m still there.
By Will Moore

Hello Fellow Democrats,

This is a proposal that we put together a Mother Lode Counties Democratic Party picnic/fund raiser/convention event at Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County in 2012.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day Rally, Sacramento 2011

Immigrant and Worker Rights March in Sacramento.

"What's in a word?" Guest Post by Lola Blevins

By Lola Blevins
This seems to be a loaded word these days, especially in Amador County.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Remembering Ludlow, 97 Years Ago Today, featuring Woody Guthrie and Howard Zinn

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 9)

By David Roddy

Note: Here is a list of all previous posts in descending order.

Fifty Good Miners

"The Tournament of Today--A Set-To Between Labor and Monopoly." Date unknown.
Five miners are waiting in an old Western room; their expressions grave despite the blossoming hillsides and fluttering birds outside the dusty windows. On the table before them lay three sheets of paper, one for each superintendent of three local mines. Each reads:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tea Party Vs. Sustainable Bridges

By David Roddy

  “Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. However, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfillment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve this on its own; but together we can - in a global partnership for sustainable development.”
                                 ~Preamble of U.N. Agenda 21
Gadsden’s serpentine yellow flag, threatening all that tread upon it, awkwardly conflicts with the anesthetizing minutia of county government. Nonetheless, those who stand so proudly beneath its folds have crept into city and county board meetings across America, waiting to protest any perceived attack on their Liberty by oppressive public officials. Their primary target, as reported by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones, is a U.N. action plan ominously named Agenda 21.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Few Little Questions: Guest Post by Nora Coryell

A Few Little Questions

Did the Amador County Board of Supervisors openly violate the Brown Act by attending a local tea party meeting en masse and discussing county business there?

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 8)

By David Roddy

Western Federation Expands

The hard rock mines of the Southern Sierra dot the foothills like acne on the face of an unhygienic teenager. The collection of mines scattered around the town of Jackson accounted for only a fraction of the mineworkers in Amador County. North of Jackson, along the undulating grassland and oak forests above the mother lode, is Amador City. At the turn of the last century, Amador City provided lodging and services to the men who drilled and blasted into the quartz bed beneath it. Like their Jackson counterparts, the mine owners expected their employees to work ten-hour shifts for $2.50.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mother Lode Progressives at April 4th "We Are One" Rally

Mother Lode Progressives stand with Wisconsin (and Ohio, Florida, Maine, Indiana, etc) take four!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 7)

By David Roddy

Synopsis of past posts:

Post 1: “49ers” remove most of the placer gold in the southern mines of California during the last decades of the 1800s, deeper mines to remove gold from quartz beds attract capitalist investment which in turn exploits cheap immigrant labor.

Post 2: Parallel developments across the Western United States lead to miners unionizing to demand wage increases and safer workplaces. In 1893, the Western Federation of Miners unites these unions and grows after a successful strike in Cripple Creek Colorado in 1894.

Post 3: In 1901, Jackson mine owners preemptively threaten to fire any unionized workers as well as anybody that showed sympathies to a rumored union. The WFM becomes militant after a series of violent strikes, advocates socialism and the possibility of armed insurrection against the capitalist class. Local newspapers side with mine owners.

Post 4: On September 6 of 1901, self-proclaimed anarchist Leon Czolgosz assassinates President William McKinley. This triggers a national panic against immigrants, anarchists and leftists. The cacophony around the national red-scare silences any rumors of a Jackson miners union.

Post 5: The Jackson Miners’ Union, No. 115 of the Western Federation of Miners, announces its presence in the fall of 1902, much to the horror of local newspapers. Newly inaugurated President Theodore Roosevelt deals peaceably with striking coal miners in Pennsylvania, giving labor unions a credibility in national media.

Post 6: Jackson Miners Union president Frank O’Connell writes a letter to Amador Dispatch calling for a socialist economy. Both Republican and Democratic newspapers attack the Jackson Miners Union.

Tensions Build On the 28th of November in 1902, the Amador Dispatch quoted an editorial from the San Luis Obispo Breeze titled “Organized Labor the Safeguard of Society.”

A broad view of the labor movement, which recognizes the fact that there is an abundance for all, is the only tenable ground. Keep up the organization, and benefits will come as fast as outside conditions will warrant. The safety of all depends upon the intelligent organization of labor.
"TR teaches the childish coal barons a lesson"
From Wikipedia.
Toleration for labor unions became increasingly fashionable as the United States entered the “Progressive Era.” The treatment of striking anthracite coal miners as equals to their employers by the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt strengthened public sympathy towards the cause of organized labor. The admittedly conservative president of the American Federation of Labor Samuel Gompers went so far as to state in his 1925 autobiography:

Several times I have been asked what in my opinion was the most important single incident in the labor movement in the United States and I have invariably replied: the strike of the anthracite miners in Pennsylvania ... from then on the miners became not merely human machines to produce coal but men and citizens.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"What's Left to Read? A Book Club for Local Radicals, Progressives, & Curious Liberals."


"What's Left to Read" is a book club centered in Amador County that discusses issues and policies usually assigned to the political left. So far we have around 15 members in the reading group, and the number grows every meeting.

We have discussed "Wobblies! A Graphic History of the I.W.W." edited by Paul Buhle and "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn, and are currently reading selections of "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein.

As you may have guessed from the flyers, we are trying to build a multigenerational coalition. We have both retired and high school members, so this has so far been a success. Contact me if you're interested.

Amador Residents Stand with Wisconsin Workers

Dozens of progressives, union members, and concerned citizens lined the rainy Main Street of Sutter Creek, California for two hours in a show of solidarity with public sector workers in the American Midwest.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of the Jackson Miner's Union (Post 6)

By David Roddy

Posts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5
Growing Pains
A tempest of controversy followed the formation of the Jackson Miners Union No. 115 in the autumn of 1902. Both the Republican Ledger and Democratic Dispatch met the presence of the Western Federation of Miners—an always socialist and occasionally revolutionary labor union—with hostility and bewilderment. Local business men also felt threatened by the Miners Union, which attempted to alleviate their anxiety in an October 10th letter published in the Amador Dispatch by stating that “The members of this organization are the men who work the mines in this vicinity and their earning make it possible for many of their critics to remain in business.”

Workers at Amador's Zeila gold mine, 1910.
The media, mine superintendents, and businessmen were not the only forces antagonizing the Union. The WFM advocated “industrial unionism,” which organized workers by an entire industry instead of by a single craft or trade. Industrial unions had a strong ideological framework that declared that people could only be truly free when they took control of their work place and broke away from a dependency on wages. This inclusive model made the lowest paid workers essential for a successful organizing drive, as they were the bulk of laborers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 5)

By David Roddy

Note: Part five of a series. Please see posts 1,2,3 & 4.

Jackson Miners Union, W.F.M. No. 115

On September 5th, 1902, one day away from the first anniversary of the McKinley assassination, the Amador Ledger ran an article descriptively titled “Reported Miners' Union.” The Ledger had adopted the platform of the Republican, which, under McKinley’s presidency, fostered a sympathetic attitude towards big business. Unsurprisingly, the Ledger antagonized the Union even prior to its official inception. The paper stated that:
“Reports have been current in Jackson and throughout the county that an effort is being made to organize a miners' labor union in this county, with headquarters in Jackson. Meetings have been bold in the basement known as the Olympus cafe for three successive nights, for the purpose of launching a now secret society.”

"Ruins of the American Dream" from

Ruins of the American Dream

Take a look at this photographic essay by Megan Cytron of abandoned mines and mining communities across the American West. Nothing from the foothills, but nonetheless shows that the rotting head frames that dot our landscape are part of a once massive national economy. published another photoessay by Cytron titled "Ordinary Folks Change the World" inspired by the life and work of Howard Zinn.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Wanted: More and Better Protesters - By Eileen Jones - The eXiled

Wanted: More and Better Protesters - By Eileen Jones - The eXiled

Note: Excellent commentary on the sorry state of American activism.


The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 4)

By David Roddy
Note: Please read Posts 1,2 & 3.

A Shot Across the Land
A group of spectators lined up one early September afternoon outside the doors of the Temple of Music, erected for the Pan-American Exposition of 1901. They had come to a meet and greet with the President of the United States, William McKinley. Leon Czolgosz, the 28-year-old son of Polish immigrants, nervously stepped out of the hot September afternoon sun into the Temple. A series of strikes he witnessed while working in a steel factory as a child radicalized Czolgosz, and as an adult, he became obsessed with anarchist philosophy. Czolgosz wrapped his right hand in bandages, and McKinley, assuming he was injured, offered his left hand instead. Czolgosz smacked this gesture away and pulled the trigger of the revolver hidden under the bandages, firing two bullets into the President’s gut.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mother Lode Progressives Stand with Wisononsin Workers at CA. State Capitol

Eight members of the Mother Lode Progressives, all between the ages of 16 and 25, stood with thousands of demonstrators on the State Capitol steps Tuesday evening to protest anti-union legislation in Wisconsin and similar proposals across the United States.

Tueday, February 22, 2011

Three of us went to another solidarity rally on Saturday, part of the so-called “Rally to Save the American Dream” organized by This crowd was much smaller and less energetic, and the only media attention garnered was in relation to a small Tea Party counter protest across the street from the Capitol building.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our banner was a simple, stencil and spray-paint rendition of the IWW slogan “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.” This old phrase was actually popular amongst the demonstrators, our sign being just one of many. Working class solidarity is not forgotten in America.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Motherlode Progressives at Tuesday Solidarity Rally in Sacramento

I will post more on this later. Please join us again this Saturday at noon.
Also this Saturday is US Uncut's first day of action, for more information go here.

Finally, check out this excellent piece on Alternet by Tana Ganeva on the authoritarian tactics used by right-wing state governments to smash dissent.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 3)

By David Roddy

Note: Please read Post 1 and Post 2 before continuing.

Rumors of a Jackson Miners Union
On the 26th of August of 1901, the superintendents from the Kennedy, Argonaut, South Eureka and Zeila gold mines in Jackson convened to address a new social movement rippling across mine communities in the western United States. “It has been reported that the Miners of Amador County have created and organized, or are about to create and organize, a society known as and called a MINERS’ UNION, for the purpose of increasing the current wages and reducing the hours of labor at the Mines in this Mining District.” Miners worked ten hours a day for less than a dollar a day, but the superintendents insisted, “The current wages are fair and the hours of labor reasonable.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of The Jackson Miners Union (Post 2)

By David Roddy
The Western Federation of Miners: A Brief Introduction

In May of 1893 miners and union organizers from Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Utah formed the Western Federation of Miners to use the collective power of organized labor to raise working conditions and wages. The WFM convened in Butte City Montana to deliberate on a constitution, and the statement of principles within the preamble declared that “Since there is scarcely any fact better known than that civilization has for centuries progressed in proportion to the production and utilization of the metals, precious and 'base, and most of the comforts enjoyed by the great majority of mankind are due to this progress, the men engaged in the hazardous and unhealthy occupation of mining should receive a fair compensation for their labor, and such protection from the law as will remove needless risk to life and health ; we therefore deem it necessary to organize the Western Federation of Miners of America for the purpose of securing by education and organization, and wise legislation, a just compensation for our labor and the right to use our earnings free from dictation by any person whatsoever.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty & Inequality: Facts About U.S. Inequality that Everyone Should Know

The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality is a project by Stanford and Harvard Universities aimed at studying policy initiatives to decrease wealth inequality in America. Their "20 Facts About U.S. Inequality that Everyone Should Know" presents graphics on poverty and nequality that illustrate the negative effects of "neoliberal" economic policy on working Americans. I'll discuss two of them.

The graph at left shows the gap in average CEO income as a ratio to average worker income. In 1970 a CEO made 39 dollars for every one dollar made his employee. By 2000 he made 1,031 to every workers dollar. The video below is excerpts from neoliberal icon Margaret Thatcher's last speech in the British House of Commons, justifying the similar explosion of wealth inequality in the U.K. under her rule.

Thatcher argues that the inequality her premiership built actually lifted all classes to a higher standard of living, a line that has been repeated ad nauseam by politicians on both sides of the ocean whenever they present a plan cut taxes. Problematically, wage growth is something measurable, and the claims made by Thatcher are demonstrably untrue. Unemployment tripled and British children became the most impoverished in Western Europe in the 1980s.

On the other side of the Atlantic the neoliberal policies of Ronald Reagan were similarly toted to increase the prosperity of all Americans. The bottom graph depicts the estimated "output" of each worker in terms of Gross Domestic Product during the last 40 years, which does increase during the Reagan years and continues to do so through George W. Bush. Middle class income, however, remains stagnant. So worker productivety increased while their wages stayed the same. To find out what happened to all that extra wealth, please refer to the first graph.

Just because it's yellow and trickles down doesn't mean it's gold.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Ground We Walk On: A History of the Jackson Miners Union (Post 1)

By David Roddy
The barbarous gold barons--they did not find the gold, they did not mine the gold, they did not mill the gold, but by some weird alchemy all the gold belonged to them!”
William “Big Bill” Haywood, organizer for the Western Federation of Miners, Industrial Workers of the World, and Socialist Party of America.
Introduction: Rebellion Beneath the Wild West
The songs of the mines permeated Jackson, a steady percussion of turning gears and cranking levers while whistling boilers and gushing water provided the accompanying chorus. The melody had no end, continuing throughout the day and night as men toiled beneath the earth. It claimed ownership of the community, and must have reminded a group of men who skipped work one warm May morning of the constant presence of the mines.
A different time: the Kennedy Mine & Mill, Jackson, Ca.
A group of seventy or so gathered on Main Street, preparing to parade. They shouted slogans in English, Italian, and Austrian while waving a forty-five starred American flag. Strange as all this sounds, perhaps the most peculiar detail was what the miners flew alongside Old Glory. For this is May Day 1906, and what flourished above the parading workers and their wives that morning was the red flag of the socialists. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Single Payer in California

Amadorians join hundreds at Capitol demanding state health care reform.
Mike and I with our nifty banner.
The above link is the Amador Ledger Dispatch coverage the presence of Amador County residents at a January 10th rally in support of California Senate Bill SB 810.
The rally, organized as part of the California Health Professional Student Alliance’s “Student Lobby Day” attempted to pressure State legislatures to support the bill on the same day as Governor Jerry Brown released his budget proposals, which included a $1.7 billion cut to Medi-Cal, which provides means tested health insurance to low income residents.

Mike and I marched with some five-hundred students and supporters to the steps of the State Capital, where several other Amador progressives met us. SB 810 would provide health insurance to all Californians, regardless of means, while lowering the net costs of healthcare by eliminated corporate overhead. It nonetheless remains controversial, particularly in Republican dominated regions like Amador County. Here I hope to refute two popular arguments against Single Payer while demonstrating its importance to rural working families.

1) Single Payer is not socialized medicine, as it does not seek to establish a state monopoly over institutions that provide medical services. A better term would be “socialized insurance” in that it simply would replace health insurance corporations with a “single payer” of public funds. The government will not be running healthcare; it will just be providing access to it.

2) We frequently hear stories about the horrors of “socialized medicine” (actually single payer) in Canada. The results of a 2003 Gallup poll would therefore come as a surprise to many California residents, reporting that 17% of Canadians were dissatisfied with their healthcare compared to 44% of Americans, and that 57% were satisfied with their healthcare as opposed to 25% of U.S. citizens.

The Nebraska based Center for Rural Affairs noted in a 2004 report that rural residents were more likely to be uninsured than those living in urban areas. This they attributed to the inability of small businesses (widespread employers within rural economies) to afford health benefits, as well as the dominance of low wage service sector employees (Wal-Mart being a prime example in Amador and Tuolumne Counties). A 1997 study by the National Survey of America’s Families found that rural individuals were 12% more likely than those in urban areas to be either uninsured or on some form of public insurance, and that was before the recession. Moreover, healthcare facilities are scattered sparsely across the country landscape, compounding medical care costs with long ambulance rides.

Rural residents are among those in most need of universal healthcare coverage, and progressives within the Mother Lode and any other backcountry region in California need to be aware of this fact.

A note on our banner: This is an inversion of sorts of Tea Party iconography. Tyranny does not reside solely within government, but dwells in any power that attempts to force its own interests over the interests of the majority. There is no greater tyrant in contemporary America than the corporation, a body that governs everything from food production to healthcare with no accountability to the people whatsoever, and should therefore be opposed by all who claim belief in individual liberty.
Students and Healthcare workers rallying on steps.
Further Reading:

California OneCare: Campaign For SB 810 – Single Payer Universal Health Care

Ormand, Barbara, Stephen Zuckermen, and Aparna Lhila. "Rural/Urban Differences in Health Care Are Not Uniform Across States." The Urban Institute
Research of Record. 01 May 200. Web. 05 Feb. 2011.

Seshamani, Meena, and Joan Nostrand. "Hard Times in the Heartland: Health Care in Rural America." Health Reform. Web. 05 Feb. 2011.