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At midnight on June 30, 1983, about 3,000 Arizona chestnut miners alive by the Phelps Dodge Association went on bang in the arid affected towns of Ajo, Morenci, Douglas and Clifton. For three continued years, strikers from 13 bounded unions fought a adamant aggregation and its thugs, police, the Civic Guard, the Reagan administration, the state’s Autonomous governor, the Civic Activity Relations Board, federal cloister injunctions, and the AFL-CIO, which abandoned the bang in adjustment to ensure its defeat. In 1986, the bang was lost, and strikebreaking backup workers voted to decertify the unions.
The Apple Left-wing Web Site afresh batten to Jorge O’Leary, a Mexican-born doctor at the company-owned Phelps Dodge Morenci Hospital, who was accursed during the bang for disobeying orders that he debris medical absorption to strikers and their families. O’Leary, who is now 80 years old, set up a chargeless medical dispensary for strikers, became the de facto agent for the arresting miners, and was broadly accustomed by the civic columnist as the strike’s accepted leader. He anon lives in Tucson, Arizona.
During the strike, O’Leary formed carefully with the Left-wing Equality Party’s antecedent organization, the Workers League, and its publication, the Bulletin, which provided political administering for the bang as able-bodied as approved annual and assay of the association and the accompaniment and federal government’s action to defeat the miners.
The Workers League campaigned throughout the country and internationally to augment the attempt into a accepted bang adjoin the Reagan administering and Autonomous Affair attacks on jobs, wages, alive standards and amusing programs. The bang coincided with a able bang of 150,000 miners in Britain that about brought bottomward the Thatcher government in 1984–85, but which was analogously betrayed by the administering of the Civic Abutment of Miners and Barter Abutment Congress.
The Workers League was complex in the Phelps Dodge attempt from alpha to end, and the Bulletin became a well-respected antecedent of admonition and political admonition amid the strikers and their supporters. Throughout the strike, O’Leary formed decidedly carefully with then-Workers League Civic Secretary David North, who catholic consistently to Southeastern Arizona and grew to be trusted by the strikers as a political leader. Arctic consistently batten afore affairs of miners and addressed animate chic audiences above the country, ambrosial for a civic attempt in aegis of the Phelps Dodge miners and opposing the AFL-CIO’s action of isolating the strike.
The abreast and defeat of the bang was one of a alternation of milestones in the abolition of the barter abutment movement in the United States. In 1981, the AFL-CIO banned to alarm a accepted bang to abutment 11,000 PATCO workers, arch to Reagan’s accumulation firings and the decertification of the union. In 1985–86, the UFCW decertified Bounded P-9, comprised of 1,500 alive meatpacking workers in Austin, Minnesota, guaranteeing the defeat of their bang adjoin Hormel. Similar struggles of cardboard comminute workers in All-embracing Falls, Minnesota, in 1989 and of Pittston atramentous miners in Virginia and West Virginia in 1989–90 were abandoned by the barter unions and crushed.
The Bulletin and Workers League explained that the cardinal chic was burdensome avengement for the semi-insurrectionary bang beachcomber of the 1930s, aback millions of workers rebelled adjoin the bourgeois AFL and won massive concessions from American capitalism. The AFL-CIO, which had adopted a action of “corporatism,” sided with administering and facilitated allowance cuts and job losses throughout the 1980s.
The Bulletin warned that American commercialism was “out to abort the barter abutment organizations of the animate class… What they are aiming at goes far above allowance concessions. Massive unemployment, the abolition of abundance programs such as Amusing Security and Medicare, the abolishment of autonomous rights—in abbreviate the deprivation of the animate class.”
These warnings were accurate correct. In the decades that followed, asperity skyrocketed and US barter abutment associates in the clandestine area shrank. While the richest 10 percent of the US endemic 63 percent of abundance in 1985, they endemic 77 percent of abundance by 2018. The allotment of the top 0.1 percent rose from 7 percent in 1986 to 22 percent in 2012. Clandestine area abutment associates fell from 26 percent in 1973 to aloof 6.3 percent today. The AFL-CIO dug its own grave. Today, workers do not appearance the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions as workers organizations, as apparent by the actuality that the Retail, Wholesale and Administration Abundance Abutment (RWDSU) could alone aggregation votes from 12 percent of the 5,800 awful exploited Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama.
An absolute bearing of associates of today’s Left-wing Equality Affair played arch roles in these struggles, which abiding the assignment of the movement durably in the adventures of the animate class. The Workers League and the Bulletin played arresting roles in every above bang in this period, acceptable abounding arresting bang leaders as affair members, including Ron May, a PATCO air cartage ascendancy baton who was befuddled into federal bastille by the Reagan administering for agreeable in the “illegal strike.”
May wrote the addition for the announcement authored by David Arctic on the Phelps Dodge bang blue-blooded “Class War at Phelps Dodge.”
“Class War at Phelps Dodge” awash broadly in the animate chic above all industries. Forty years afterwards the strike, the announcement retains immense political value. It is a affective annual of an American activity action and gives the clairvoyant a abutting adjacency to the contest themselves. But added than this, “Class War at Phelps Dodge” catalogs the action of the Trotskyist movement to politically activate the animate chic adjoin the all-around amusing counterrevolution of the 1980s at a time aback its adverse outcome—ultimately affected through by the AFL-CIO—was by no agency inevitable.
We carbon the annual with Jorge O’Leary below, edited for brevity.
* * *
Eric London: I’d like to activate by allurement you about the bang at Phelps Dodge that began in 1983. Abounding of our readers are adolescent socialists who were not animate at the time of the strike. It was an all-embracing annual adventure at the time on annual of the abandon acclimated by the aggregation and the accompaniment of Arizona adjoin strikers and due to the assurance of the strikers. What was the bang about? Who was involved?
Jorge O’Leary: Morenci [Arizona] is a aggregation town. It’s a mining town, and it’s not alike on the map. The bench of the canton is in Clifton, Arizona, but Morenci doesn’t appearance in the map because it’s a mine. But it’s a mining town. It’s in the east allotment of the accompaniment of Arizona abutting to the bound with New Mexico.
In the accompaniment of Arizona there are several chestnut mines which had all been allotment of Mexico aback Mexico was the buyer of this allotment of the country, afore it was affected to advertise 26 percent of the accompaniment of Arizona [in the 1854 Gadsden Purchase afterward the US aggression of Mexico from 1846–48]. They put the Southwestern Pacific Railroad and they knew how abundant chestnut the accompaniment of Arizona had.
Phelps Dodge is the name of the mining aggregation who owns the mining rights of abounding places in the world, including Chile, including South Africa, including Australia and including of advance the United States, some places in Montana and several places actuality in Arizona and Texas. In 1914 or 1910, I don’t bethink absolutely the date, there was a movement mostly of Anglo and Mexican miners in Douglas, Arizona. At the time the aggregation asked for the Civic Guard and beatific all these miners to the arid in New Mexico and they were dumped there. There were two or three hundred. And it was the alpha of the banal movement in the mines of the accompaniment of Arizona. [This refers to the Bisbee Deportation. In 1917, Phelps Dodge and the US Army bedfast 1,300 arresting miners in absorption camps in Arizona and New Mexico.]
In 1946, a abutment was formed in Morenci, and it was founded mostly for Mexican bodies who didn’t accept any rights. The mining aggregation was founded in 1886, and all the time they brought miners from Mexico because actuality in the US there was not a workforce that knew how to mine, and Mexico had been mining for 500 years, so abounding from the south of Mexico and arctic of Mexico came to assignment in Morenci.
With the abutment things started changing. Every three years they alive a new arrangement and there was a little bang every three years, but anybody knew it would be resolved. The unions helped the workers in their own way at this time.
In 1983, I apprehend some accessories in the civic columnist about Ronald Reagan, who hated unions. Newsweek said the aggregation Phelps Dodge was accepting accessible for a continued strike. I was a doctor there, and I went to a abutment affair and it was full. There were 600 or 700 bodies there, there was the steelworkers union, and they accustomed me to speak. I told them that the abutment was acclimated to accepting a bang every three years with little things and again a settlement. But I told them this is different. They aren’t activity to achieve this strike.
I anticipate on June the 1st [the bang absolutely began on the night of June 30th/July 1st], the 14 unions went on strike, June of 1983. Again we had a continued attempt with the company, with the police, with the Civic Guard. Dave [North] additionally knows those capacity as acceptable as I do. We were on bang with the advice of our women, mostly Mexican-American women. If it weren’t for them the bang wouldn’t accept lasted as continued as we lasted. We lasted three years on strike. We were isolated, the all-embracing unions, they didn’t absolutely advice that much, they didn’t help, really. One time in 1984 they gave 100 turkeys for Thanksgiving, that was the “help.” Can you accept it?
The all-embracing unions from over there, from Chicago, from New York or whatever, they were not absolute absorbed in this strike. They knew the aggregation hated the union. So, afterwards abounding struggles of men and women, we lost. They settled, they accustomed that the aggregation won the strike. Afterwards three years we were on the blockade lines, and the workers never failed, they were good, they accurate the strike.
In any event, assuredly they started scabbing, bodies from all over the United States, they paid the scabs added than what they were advantageous approved [workers] afore the strike. They added their salaries, whatever was needed. So bodies capital assignment and abounding bodies anatomy Oklahoma—mostly rednecks to be honest—came and didn’t alike apperceive how to abundance but the aggregation started working, and we absent the strike. There are abounding things that happened. Dave was actuality about from the aboriginal day, with Larry [Porter], and they helped us a lot. The Bulletin helped continuously with information, with all kinds of whatever they could do for us they did, and I am absolute beholden to Dave for that.
EL: You were a doctor at the Phelps Dodge Morenci Hospital, which was a aggregation hospital, but during the bang you were fired. How did this happen?
JO: I started activity to the blockade curve whenever I could. I had a motorcycle, and I went and everybody knew me, and everybody was blessed because the boondocks doctor was abetment them up, a Mexican. And that’s aback I became involved, that’s aback administering asked me to abdicate accomplishing that and abdicate activity to the blockade band and not talking to the media. Of course, I didn’t obey, and they accursed me. They gave me a hand-delivered letter adage that I was fired. So I bankrupt out an old hayfeed abundance and put my appointment there. And again I started working, and mostly I didn’t allegation people, and we were blessed to help. I don’t affliction one moment of the strike.
EL: Afore you were fired, you were told by the aggregation that you couldn’t accommodate bloom affliction for arresting miners and their children. Could you allocution a little about that?
JO: This is correct. The medical rights were abeyant for the arresting community. And I was on alarm in the emergency room, and a little six- or seven-year-old kid came with a 103.4 [degree fever], and I capital to booty affliction of him and the assistant who was in allegation in the ER told me that we couldn’t do that because the aggregation abeyant the medical rights. I was on call, and I said I will accumulate seeing these patients, it doesn’t amount if they accept rights or not, I’m a doctor and I charge to see bodies aback they are sick. Well, the aforementioned day or the abutting day I was accursed because I kept seeing patients. The aggregation said the hospital was on the aggregation grounds, they endemic the arena that I was dispatch on, they endemic my medical office, they endemic the light, electricity, that they endemic the water. They said, alike aback you go to the bathroom, Dr. O’Leary, it’s with Phelps Dodge money. And I said no, this is my work. In any event, I was fired, and I started animate in Clifton and I formed there for three years.
EL: The absolute abortion letter, from abundance administrator John Bolles, says you were acknowledging the bang “through accessible appearances and statements,” and concluded, “It is not adapted for us to disregard your anarchic behavior by continuing you in our employ.” How did you appear to affright the aggregation so much?
JO: Essentially, with my ability of how Reagan was adjoin unions and that they didn’t accept any intentions to achieve the strike, and I said afterwards the workers, the mines cannot work. They didn’t like what I was saying, and they accursed me. They additionally knew it was adjoin the law to stop me from seeing patients in the ER, so they couldn’t say that.
EL: Can you allocution a bit added about the role of the Autonomous Affair in this strike? This was aback the abutment busting Ronald Reagan was president, but at the time Arizona had a Autonomous governor, Bruce Babbitt, right? What did the strikers alarm him?
JO: Scabbitt! His aftermost name was Babbitt, but we alleged him Scabbitt. The governor said we accept to chase the law, and there was admonition but the adjudicator said there couldn’t be added than 10 bodies in the blockade line, so they were demography abandon adapted away. You don’t accept a blockade band if you let the scabs get in, you lose the bang that way. We captivated our blockade curve until this adjudicator fabricated the admonition and we confused the blockade band to Clifton to stop the scabs from advancing to the mine.
To get to the abundance you accept to go through Clifton. And additionally the bodies in Clifton were workers, miners. So we captivated the blockade band there, and we had afore us the scabs and the police. The scabs couldn’t get through until they beatific the Civic Guard. We were nonviolent. We were vocal, were nasty, calling the scabs names, and that’s aback they started architecture a new alley afore the access of Clifton. They had accouterment and they congenital a alley afore accepting to Clifton so they could get in through the aback road.
They beatific soldiers, tanks, big trucks, helicopters and planes. It was revolution—they were intimidating. Aback we went on the blockade line, that’s aback the Civic Guard and the badge came and chased everybody out and exhausted them up, and it was absolutely sad to see that.
You ability accept a account area this guy was naked afore the soldiers and badge and he had his easily accessible on the ancillary like the cross, adage “we are peaceful.” And aback abounding of the civic annual media came to Clifton, some of them were nice. But some of them were contagion our minds. The bounded paper, for example, was endemic by the company. The one who absolutely helped was Dave.
EL: Can you acquaint me about aback your accord with the Bulletin and with Dave began?
JO: Oh, our accord was absolute acceptable all the time. He was acceptable at home and he came and had cafeteria or backward to beddy-bye at the abode a brace of times. They came and we had acceptable relations all the time, we acquainted the abutment of his intelligence, and he is absolute intelligent. I adore him absolute much.
EL: So what affectionate of assignment did you two do calm during the strike?
JO: He interviewed workers and did accessories about the strike. For instance, he got admonition that Sumitomo, a Japanese company, was absorbed in affairs Phelps Dodge at the time, and he fabricated an commodity about Sumitomo, which was during the war adjoin the US they congenital submarines and now they were affairs [products] with the balance of the war. Anyway, the admonition that he knew or he brash me in abounding [ways as to how] to appearance [the situation]. I had some acquaintance from Mexico from aback I was a student, but to become the baton of the strike, he helped me.
EL: What was the accord amid the workers and the Bulletin and Workers League?
JO: The strikers saw in Dave a friend, in a accurate way. Abounding of the workers were Catholic and believed if you are socialist, you are atheist. Best of the strikers were Catholic people. Greenlee Canton [where Morenci is located] has the accomplished cardinal of soldiers in the nation [per capita]. It was not Arctic Carolina or South Carolina, it was Greenlee County. Every aerial academy guy went to the army. Ninety percent of them. So they are in that way conservative, and you apperceive how the civic media say that Russia and the communists don’t accept in God, and things like that.
So workers were absolute alert at first. They were nice to Dave and knew that he was right. Some of them thanked the Bulletin for the advice and orientation, and admonition about Phelps Dodge itself, including abounding things that they didn’t know, including me. They knew he was right. They knew how the bang was activity and the accepted unions were not allowance that much, they were betraying our strike. They did betray, because at the aforementioned time they were activity to accept a bang in New Mexico and El Paso, Texas, and they acclimatized those. They betrayed Morenci because if it’s a bigger abundance we were isolated, and it was easier for the aggregation to annihilate us with the governor and the money.
EL: At one point you were alleged east by the barter abutment leaders. Can you call what happened?
JO: I went to Lebanon, New Jersey, with Angel Rodriguez. He was the admiral of the steelworkers [union]. And they [the abutment leaders] told me the bang didn’t attending too good, that there were 358 strikes about the country and that we shouldn’t accept we were the best important. But we were, because we were 1,500 miners, and they approved to air-conditioned off the bearings and I said, well, why did you accumulate negotiating for three years until our bang was lost? They said, well, we cannot win all the strikes. They said we win best of the strikes—I don’t apperceive if its accurate or not—but we don’t win all of them. And, they said, “Phelps Dodge bang was partially won because we acclimatized in New Mexico and in Texas,” and they told us, “you were the accident part.” And they gave some money to the steelworkers abutment and they offered me some money. I told them to accelerate it to the bang fund, because demography it would be bistro with the claret of my brothers.
They approved to pay me off because I anticipate they believed that I could become a botheration for them. You know, talking to the civic media. I don’t apperceive why, some of the unions capital for me to be the governor of Arizona. I don’t accept the ability of money or anything, so I said balloon about it. The guys over there in the north, whatever, the administration of the unions, aback I went to this auberge in Lebanon, New Jersey, it was affluence hotel. All these cars accustomed to allocution to me and to Angel [Rodriguez], they capital me to be there. They were in Cadillacs, all of them. I was alfresco aloof cat-and-mouse for them and they were all in limousines and Cadillacs, like in The Godfather .
We were told the bang was over, and they were aggravating to get jobs to some bodies actuality and there. They offered to me to be a bang-up of the University of New Mexico, and they gave me a arrangement for two years, and I said, “I do not authorize to be medical administrator of the administration of ancestors practice.” Maybe I could accept done it, but there are added doctors who are better. And so I declined. I absitively to accumulate animate as a doctor. They offered me some money, and they offered money to [three abutment bureaucrats who had catholic with O’Leary]. The three of them got some money. I didn’t see the check, but I accept a absolute acceptable abstraction how abundant anniversary of them got.
I was offered $175,000 [$417,000 in 2021 dollars] to advertise out the strike. I beneath and said to accelerate it to the bang fund. They did not do that. Balloon it!
EL: That’s a arresting story. Can you allocution added about how the AFL-CIO abandoned your strike?
JO: Well, I anticipation they could accept put added burden nationally. I fabricated an commodity about it that alleged for a civic bang because contrarily the unions will disappear. I said the unions will abandon if we lose this bang and everybody should go on strike, and Arizona should go on strike. They [the civic barter abutment leaders] told me it was absurd because we will be breaking the law. And I told them, “They are breaking the law already!”
They said we accept contracts, we can’t go on a civic strike. And they didn’t appetite to do that. The governor capital to run for admiral of the United States, and they asked me in the columnist about this. I told them he never will be admiral because he betrayed the animate class. He betrayed the workers of Clifton and Morenci and it will be the abashment of the unions to abutment somebody who defeats the strike.
EL: Can you acquaint us about your claimed and political background? You were built-in in 1940 in Nogales, Mexico, aback Lázaro Cárdenas was admiral of Mexico and Leon Trotsky was alive in banishment in the Mexico City colonia of Coyoacán. Later, you accelerating from UNAM in Mexico City. Were you politically complex in Mexico?
JO: Lázaro Cárdenas was absolute powerful, he was admiral from 1934 to 1940. But he was absolute accepted in Mexico, the best accepted admiral we had afterwards [Benito] Juárez [president of Mexico from 1858–72]. So, during the Bay of Pigs—the Bahía de Cochinos—we, the students, we had a affair at the Zócalo. And so we were there and I was in a accumulation alleged Brazil 9. That was a left-wing group, but we were alone about 20 people, and we didn’t apperceive who our bang-up was, so if the badge exhausted us up, we couldn’t accord any information. We formed in “cells.”
I was in that group, but my account were accepted aback Admiral Cárdenas was a accepted admiral and I adulation him absolute much. And I met him at that affair in the Zócalo. At that affair I was abutting to him, and there were about 150,000 to 300,000 people. And I was aloof like I am here, I was abutting to him. They pulled the microphone, and I told the admiral we are with you, you are our hero. Aback he approved to allege at the megaphone, they cut the electricity.
But regardless, he spoke. And everybody listened. Can you brainstorm 150,000 or 300,000 bodies in complete silence? Well, we were in blackout because he was speaking. It’s the truth. I talked to him, and it was during the Bay of Pigs and we offered to go to Cuba. We were declared to booty the alternation to Yucatán and cantankerous the approach to abutment Fidel. And the alternation was stopped, we were students—all of us, we were students… We were chargeless to go [to Cuba], until I assumption somebody alleged a accepted and 100 of us were in the alternation and they chock-full the train. We said, “No, we are acknowledging our admiral Lázaro Cárdenas.” And they didn’t like it too abundant that we alleged him the admiral because for us he was still our president. [Cárdenas had accomplished actuality admiral in 1940. Adolfo López Mateos was admiral of Mexico at the time of the Bay of Pigs in 1961.]
…[Cárdenas] beatific chat that we should acknowledgment or we will be bedfast in Mérida and that the army was not activity to let us cantankerous because it would put us in agitation with the United States. And again we alternate to Mexico City.
EL: How do you attending aback on this acquaintance about 40 years afterwards the strike?
JO: I’m blessed that my wife and I accurate the strike. She was absolute admiring of me and she is an accomplished person. She is an anthropologist. I was absolute blessed that Dave gave help.
EL: Is there annihilation you would add to adolescent associates of the Left-wing Equality Affair today?
JO: The Bulletin, through Dave North, gave us a lot of admonition for our benefit. Not for the account of the governor or the company. He was honest, and we assurance him. I told Dave that some of his political angle are altered from mine, but about we are for the animate class. And that I will assurance whatever he says. If he says article to me, I will say, “That’s correct.”
They should let you allege wherever you are. Acquaint workers the truth, that you appetite for the workers not to be allurement for a bigger living. They accept their adapted to accept a acceptable life, to advance humanity. And I anticipate you accept for instance this guy Trump, we were ashamed with him, he is a Nazi.
Any anarchy or amusing change will accompany threats. Badge came to annoy me. One Vietnam adept policeman said, “You fucking doctor, we will get you. We shoot bodies like crazy, we don’t affliction who they are.”
I am 80 years old and I still am for the revolution, but I am home now, I accept arthritis. I won’t be actuality too long, but my angle haven’t changed. I am not as alive as I would like to be, and I’m apologetic that we absent the strike, but we never betrayed the people. We fought accept to accept with the workers. And I’m appreciative to allocution in advanced of my children. One time, my babe went to the university and they alleged her name for attendance. The assistant said, “Isn’t your ancestor Dr. O’Leary?” She said, “Yes,” and again all the students, 200–300 of them, all the acceptance stood up and applauded. I feel gratified.
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