The years between 1890 and 1920 were crucial in the rise of modern organized labor in the United States. During this period, America saw the demise of the Knights of Labor and the subsequent ascent to union supremacy of the American Federation of Labor. As the organized labor movement grew, it reached out to encourage the participation of workers throughout the Rocky Mountain region and the far west. Western laborers, led by hard rock miners, created organizations such as the American Labor Union (ALU), Western Labor Union (WLU), and most notably the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) that represented their particular needs.
Not all working men were given the right of union participation, however. While such unions as the WFM steadfastly espoused the rights and equality of workers, they nonetheless barred certain segments of the rank-and-file working class from participation in union matters. Such was the case of Chicano workers in the territory and, later, state of Arizona.
Using both primary and secondary sources, this work attempts to portray the attitudes and obstacles that confronted Mexican workers in their desire to be included in existing unions and to achieve economic parity with their Anglo counterparts. The opening chapters describe the Arizona labor scene and the factors that thwarted Mexicanos early attempts to unionize: racial animosities, management's fear of making any labor concessions to workers--unionized or not, inter-union strife between the WFM and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and, lastly, various strikes in which Mexican workers made known their discontent.
The middle chapters address themselves to actual examples of labor strife in which Mexicanos not only struggled for union recognition but also sought some measure of respect from the Anglo society that believed these same workers were not capable of embracing the tenets and nuances of AFL unionism or deserving of an equal position in society.
Ultimately Chicanos gained the right to be included within union structures. However, outside forces worked to destroy Arizona unionism, and by 1917, with the deportation of the IWW, management had successfully weakened all workers' organizations to such an extent that both Chicano and Anglo workers found themselves thrown back to the period when management and government had closely aligned themselves to hinder any and all unionization endeavors.
This work traces the rise and fall of union activity in Arizona and, more importantly, tries to shed light on Mexican participation within this cycle. In so doing, it will hopefully illuminate the role that Chicanos played in early Arizona union development during the years 1896-1917--a story that has been sadly neglected by most historians of western labor.
Level of Degree
First Committee Member (Chair)
Donald Colgett Cutter
Second Committee Member
Richard Nathaniel Ellis
Third Committee Member
Robert William Kern
Casillas, Michael E.. "Mexicans, Labor, And Strife In Arizona, 1896-1917." (1979). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/hist_etds/315