Are unions “dying”?
With the path unions are currently heading, they may soon be thing of the past. They’ve moved from their focus from advocating for safe work conditions and fair pay, to the realm of political organizations using their network to influence the political realm.
Southern New Mexicans who worked the mines decades ago were surprised when the Bayard, New Mexico Freeport McMoRan owned mine “decertified” or voted out the union at the Chino mine last September. 72-year-old Bayard, New Mexico city councilor Zeke Santa Maria who worked the mine for over twenty years was “very surprised” by the vote to decertify. He believed there was a mistake for mine workers to reject the United Steelworkers Union.
With the vote 236 to and 83 against union participation in September’s decertification election, it proved to be a landslide in favor of decertification, the complete opposite of United Steelworkers District 12 staff representative Fernando Terrazas’ prediction.
So what? It is ONLY one mine! Or is it?!
A couple of years ago, I heard the “full story” (or as much as I need to hear) behind Salt of the Earth and the unions in the Grant County area. I was introduced to the tale via a conservative on Twitter and during the course of our conversation about New Mexico, he mentioned he had lived in Silver City and had been a chair of the Republican Party in his county decades ago. He had no love for Salt of the Earth, a movie that boasts that it is “The Only Blacklisted American Film”.
I researched a little and came upon the story of the film he considered abominable– Salt of the Earth. Salt of the Earth was a drama made in the mid-1950’s in the days when Hollywood stars were blacklisted for being Communist or Communist sympathizers and movies were carefully screened, not only on the morality spectrum, but for anti-American political ideals.
The movie’s plot was the true story of striking Hispanic miners in Grant County, New Mexico. Clinton Jencks, who would go on to star in Salt of the Earth movie, was a leftist union member brought to the southern New Mexico Mine-Mill Local 890, where he and his wife took a relatively novel approach to union affairs– they got wives involved.
Later these old-time hard-Left community organizers, became heroes to the Hollywood Communists, winning a battle (where they may very well have been right to some extent). And Grant County, New Mexico, was on the map as a leftist hotbed and solid union country.
But now, just over sixty years after the Salt of the Earth was made, the unions at the mines are gone. Now not one mine is union in Grant County.
Unions weakened liberal’s and Democrats political infrastructure?
After the union decertification, a friend called to inform us of the big news, explaining her perspective– it might even influence candidate races. Races we were directly involved in, she said. Perhaps it did. Governor Martinez won Grant County (for the first time), Congressman Pearce won Grant County (for the first time) and the mining district also added Republican state Representative John Zimmerman. Zimmerman is the first Republican representative to represent the mining district in many years. While I won’t say the union decertification was responsible for these Republican victories, they likely aided the efforts of conservative activists.
Maybe it is time for unions to forget partisan politics and instead fight for the people they supposedly represent. Maybe they wouldn’t be dying if they fought for people, instead of playing politics?