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Thread by @ErikLoomis: "This Day in Labor History: July 11, 1892. Striking silver miners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho blew up the Frisco Mill, which held mine guards. Le […]"

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This Day in Labor History: July 11, 1892. Striking silver miners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho blew up the Frisco Mill, which held mine guards. Let's talk about the role of violence when workers feel they have no hope--then and now.
Conditions in the northern Idaho mining district were as bad as you’d expect in the 1890s. High number of deaths, endemic poverty, etc. In order to invest in new machinery, the mine owners wanted to cut costs.
Naturally, they chose to make their lives of their workers more hellish. They demanded an increase in the work day from 9 to 10 hours, 7 days a week and with a pay cut on top of it.
In response, the miners decided to strike. What’s interesting in this strike was the sense of industrial solidarity expressed by the workers. The 3000 miners demanded not only good wages for themselves, but for the 500 common laborers who toiled in the mines.
Typically, the mine owners responded in two ways. First, they shipped in thousands of scabs, mostly from Montana. The Idaho miners did have some success in turning them toward the strike, but it was an uphill battle.
Second, the mine owners hired the Pinkerton Agency to infiltrate the strike. Some of them protected the scabs, others served as spies.
One of the spies was a man named Charlie Siringo. Siringo, who actually witnessed the legendary Wyatt Earp shootout with Clay Allison in Dodge City, Kansas in 1877, was the Pinkertons’ top undercover operator.
He managed to gain the trust of the strikers, advancing men small loans and buying them drinks. He became Recording Secretary for the union, giving him access to the union’s books.
Siringo then reported everything back to the mine owners. He also overplayed the miners’ radicalism, allowing his own hatred for organized labor to paint the miners as anarchists.
By early July, Siringo was suspected as a spy when union information began appearing in local newspapers. Outraged, the miners took a more militant stand.
Late on the night of July 10, miners gathered to stop a new trainload of scabs from entering the mines. No one knows who shot first, but Pinkertons were far more prepared for the shootout, having hidden behind rocks whereas the union members were in the open.
Nonetheless, the union men climbed above the Frisco Mill and dropped a box of powder down a flume. It exploded upon impact, killing one mine employee.
The Pinkertons ran out and hid in another building. The miners fired into the building, killing another and forcing the Pinkertons to surrender.
At this point, the miners turned their fury on Siringo. Hundreds converged on the boarding house where he stayed. But he cut a hole in the floor and jumped out, escaping. Meanwhile, a battle began at a nearby mine that led in the death of 3 miners before the owners surrendered.
Overall, 3 mines fell into the hands of the workers by the evening of July 11. This led Idaho Governor N.B. Willey to declare martial law and send in the Idaho National Guard to break the union.
Siringo identified the union leaders for arrest and the National Guard rounded up the miners, locking them in a bullpen. Martial law continued for 4 months.
The impact of the mine strike was perhaps most felt in the creation of the Western Federation of Miners the next year. WFM leaders such as Big Bill Haywood declared their union was born in the Boise prisons where the Coeur d’Alene miners served their prison sentences.
The WFM became a force in the western mines during the 1890s and 1900s. It then played the most important role in creating the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905.
George Pettibone, one of the main miner leaders in Coeur d’Alene, was accused of murdering former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905 for his actions in another Coeur d’Alene miner strike in 1899, but was acquitted of these false charges, dying of cancer in 1908.
Charlie Siringo went on to infiltrate Butch Cassidy’s Train Robbers Syndicate. His work led Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to flee to Bolivia.
Later in life, Siringo attempted to write an autobiography exposing all the Pinkerton’s dirty tricks, but the detective agency sued and halted publication.
So here we had a situation when workers found themselves betrayed and knowing they had no other alternative to salvage their strike and their union, they turned to violence. We can perhaps expect more contemporary workers turn to violence if the state suppresses them.
As the Republican Party and the courts seek to reinstitute the conditions of 1892 to the present, growing desperation could lead to growing violence.
Now--a move toward violent resistance would be really hard for many reason. First, young people especially love the idea of non-violence, or what they think it is. The buy-in to their belief about what MLK and Rosa Parks did is very deep. It's also largely mistaken.
So if they find out that King was supportive of Robert Williams, who famously used violence against the KKK in North Carolina, they struggle to deal with that.
In fact, there may be a time when violence should be part of workers' playbook again. I think we need to reject the position that the use of violence is immoral. It's not, at least in theory. However, there are many reasons why it's a bad idea.
First, violence resistance hardly ever works and is a sure set way to turn public opinion against you. Second, the use of violence in politics is a great way to let misogynists and irresponsible radicals to take over your movement. That violence is often turned on each other.
Third, most of the people advocating for violence in social movements are idiots. And I very much mean modern anarchists, especially in taking over other people's protests such as at the WTO in Seattle.
Hell, the Chicago anarchist who threw the bomb at Haymarket was an idiot. Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman attacking Henry Clay Frick without the approval of the striking workers made them idiots.
In other words, if violence was to be used as a tactic, it would need to be heavily controlled and taken away from people invested in their own toxic masculinity and independence doing it themselves. It would need to be extremely rare.
Given that these positions are effectively impossible to replicate in the real world, it's probably better that workers never use violence as a planned tactic. But that's a very different position from saying they shouldn't or can't.
These are some of the tricky issues I deal with in my upcoming book, A History of America in Ten Strikes.

amazon.com/History-Americ…
Got a really great pre-review here! So, I don't know, try to read the book!

kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/e…
Back tomorrow to discuss one of the most critical and relevant labor issues of the past--the Bisbee Deportation of 1917, which combines corporate power, government indifference, and a little ethnic cleansing of a town. Remind you of the present?
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