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.

W.F.M. president Charles Moyer visited Amador City during the first week of January of 1903. Moyer finalized an organizing drive that must have been operating surreptitiously for several months, for on January 5, the Amador Miners Union, No. 135, declared its presence. The next day, coincidently underscoring the dangerous nature of mine work, Steven Limotovich, an Austrian immigrant, died while working 1800 feet beneath Amador City in the Central Eureka Mine. The Amador Ledger reported the accident.

At first a rock fell from above and struck him on the head, and immediately thereafter a mass of loose gravel and debris fell upon him, striking him in the back and almost burying him. He gave out a cry of pain, or terror. His comrades soon got him out and sent him to the surface, but his life was extinct by the time he reached the top.
The Amador Miners Union adopted its constitution and by-laws on January 19, 1903, the preamble of which cited the inherently perilous working conditions of mining as justification for the formation of the Union.

      Whereas, In view of the fearfully hazardous nature of our vocation, premature old age, and many ills, the result of our unnatural toil and…
    Whereas, We should cultivate an acquaintance with our fellows, in order that we may be the better enabled to form an undivided opposition to acts of injustice; therefore,
   We the miners of Amador City and the vicinity have resolved to form an association for the promotion and protection of our common interests…for united we possess strength. Let us, then, “act justly and fear not.”
With the mines in adjacent districts unionized, the Jackson Union prepared to exert its influence over the running of the mines.

References:"News of the Week" and "Death in the Mine," Amador Ledger [Jackson, CA] 09 Jan. 1903.

Trewhella, W.J.. Capelini, Angelo.  Calvin, H.D.(Committee). Constitution and By-Laws of Amador Miners Union No. 135 Western Federation of Miners. Amador City. Jan. 19, 1903.

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