Detail View: Colorado Coal Project: Interview with Earle Stucker and Joe "Moose" Martinez, March 8, 1978, Delta, Colorado (part 1 of 4) .

Collection Name: 
Colorado Coal Project
Title: 
An injured miner tells her story.
Title: 
Interview with Earle Stucker and Joe "Moose" Martinez, March 8, 1978, Delta, Colorado (part 1 of 4) .
Creator: 
Margolis, Eric, 1947-
Creator: 
McMahan, Ronald L.
Subject: 
Coal Strike, Colo., 1913-1914
Subject: 
Coal mining -- Colorado
Subject: 
Coal mining -- New Mexico
Subject: 
Labor disputes -- Colorado
Subject: 
Strikes and lockouts -- Coal mining -- Colorado
Subject: 
Coal miners -- Personal narratives
Subject: 
Coal mines and mining
Description: 
Stucker first mined coal in the non-union Somerset mine, 1927, owned by the Utah Fuel Company. He describes it as a self-contained "company owned camp". Workers were paid in script and shopped at the company store. He describes 16-hour work-days, black lung (which was then known as "miner's asthma"), and no compensation for injuries. Still, he felt his employer was better than most coal mines in the state. The workforce (which included many ethnic groups) had no machines, only picks. They had no check weighman, to validate their coal output. During the Depression (1933), they were finally able to unionize with little trouble and could finally raise safety concerns with impunity. He is upset with recent efforts at a right-to-work law. He recalls organizing Hispanic miners in New Mexico, just before they were called to active duty in the National Guard. Early mining was more physically demanding, and there were few options to a company town and store. Underground mining has become more technical, specialized, and pay is based on hourly rates (not the tonnage produced). He describes John R. Lawson, a UMW district president in 1913/14, who was shot during a strike, but later became president of Rocky Mountain Fuel Company -- Josephine Roach had controlling interest; the union lent the company money, to keep miners working. The company then signed UMW contracts. John L. Lewis sent Stucker to organize the union (UMWA). The Ludlow strike (which eventually required intervention by the regular army) broke the union in that area. By contrast, in western Colorado Stucker never saw a gun "in the hands of the company or the men". From about 1936-1946, Stucker worked in New Mexico, where mines were mostly non-union. John L. Lewis sent him after the failure of the 1933 strike by the National Miners' Union -- which failed to get a contract and (Stucker claims) was dominated by communists. Despite initial resistance, he eventually organized all the miners in the area. Stucker now sees an effort to destroy the UMWA. [Moose] had some organizer's training back east; he comes from a mining family on both sides. His disability is due to back injury from Thomson Creek and from black lung. The company would lay off and avoid hiring "undesirable" union activists; similarly, the company would alter work assignments to favor employees they liked. Moose started mining in 1947, at the age of 18, after 3 years in the navy. Stucker describes the Taft-Hartley injunction being used against the UMWA in the mid-1940s. Soon, the railroads switched from coal to oil, further threatening the coal industry. Miners instituted a 3-day workweek in July 1949, which helped deplete coal stockpiles; in March 1950, miners went on strike. The govt. invoked the Taft-Hartley law (which the union ignored), levied fines upon the union and its president, and nationalized the mine. Eventually, all parties signed a good contract. Both Moose and Stucker agree that current wages are good but that recent contracts have reduced benefits. They discuss the 1917 strike at Kebler Mine, Colorado, between UMWA and Rocky Mountain Fuel. The UMWA formed a corporation (Lou Merkin Company) to operate union mines. After the 1950 contract, the union worked toward a nation-wide agreement. Stucker organized in New Mexico among Hispanic and Navajo miners, who were often treated even worse than their Anglo counterparts. By the mid-1930s, he succeeded in signing contracts for these miners but was later attacked by company goons at a Labor Day party. Similarly, in 1973 Moose was arrested while picketing in Wyoming, handcuffed and jailed. Stucker organized in Madrid, New Mexico, where Appalachian subcontractors opposed unionization. The union struck for 16 weeks, beginning 1 April 1941; the picket line became a violent confrontation. Silver Lorenzo assisted in the organizing effort. They discuss the compensation for black lung disease, which took so long to pass that many benefits went to widows: the miners themselves had died. Stucker recalls John L. Lewis, his skill as a union organizer, even his work as a coal miner. Stucker speaks of the current strike and feels it could have a positive outcome, unifying the union. The organizers now encounter larger corporations that hope to standardize contracts by driving them down in cost, not up. The miners express concern about new coal fields and oil shale deposits, especially their effects on the way of life in nearby towns and farms.
Description Type: 
summary
Description: 
Miner Yvonne Biggs talks about her recent hand injury, which happened at the non-union Westmoreland mine and led to a worker's compensation dispute. The conversation includes former safety officer at the mine, Jerry Diaz. Yvonne joined the union hoping for some sort of job protection. She thinks a union mine would be a safer workplace, with more emphasis on safety and less on production. She was unable to get a safety committee hearing after her accident. In an attempt to ward off unionization, opponents to the UMWA have spread lurid tales about possible threats from union members.
Description Type: 
summary
Description: 
(First part of Biggs/Diaz interview not on transcript) 15 min: Pickett2 transcript begins = p. 1 of pdf 20 min: Yvonne's hand injury and her decision to join the union = p. 4 of pdf 30 min: Safety issues in the mine; management tries to block unionization by spreading falsehoods = p. 9 of pdf 30 min: Stuckert interview begins = p. 3 of Stuckert pdf 40 min: Difficulties of his early work in the mines and life in the mining camps = p. 7 of pdf 50 min: Mine organization, changes in mines after WWII; modern unions = p. 11 of pdf 60 min: His early work as an organizer; the chaos of the 1913-1914 strike = p. 15 of pdf
Description Type: 
SegmentSequence
Publisher: 
University of Colorado Boulder Archives
Contributor: 
Biggs, Yvonne
Contributor: 
Diaz, Jerry
Contributor: 
Martinez, Moose 1919-1989
Contributor: 
Stucker, Earle 1906-1984
Contributor: 
[Stuckert, Earle]
Date: 
3/8/1978
Type: 
MovingImage
Format: 
video/mp4
Identifier: 
139-Stuckert
Language: 
English
Relation: 
narv_coloradoCoal_transPickett2
Relation Type: 
derivedFrom
Relation href: 
http://cudl.colorado.edu/luna/servlet/s/7hf767
Relation: 
140-Stuckert
Relation Type: 
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http://cudl.colorado.edu/luna/servlet/s/6td53e
Relation: 
141-Stuckert
Relation Type: 
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Relation href: 
http://cudl.colorado.edu/luna/servlet/s/1ozv4f
Relation: 
142-Stuckert
Relation Type: 
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Relation href: 
http://cudl.colorado.edu/luna/servlet/s/8838c7
Relation: 
narv_coloradoCoal_transStuckert
Relation Type: 
derivedFrom
Relation href: 
http://cudl.colorado.edu/luna/servlet/s/dfb3q8
Coverage (Spatial): 
Dawson, NM
Coverage (Spatial): 
Delta, CO
Coverage (Spatial): 
Kebler Mine, CO
Coverage (Spatial): 
Mentmore Coal Mine, NM
Coverage (Spatial): 
Thompson Creek Mine, CO
Coverage (Temporal): 
1890/1978