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The deportation train stranded the miners in the desert twenty miles east of Columbus, New Mexico. The U.S. Army was ordered to establish a camp for the deportees. This letter was sent from I.W.W. members in camp to William Hayword expressing concerns about camp conditions and the deprotation from Bisbee, and asking for assistance. It was part of the deposition of John W. Hughes for the Michael Simmons vs. the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad Company.

UA Special Collections AZ 114 Box 1, folder 2, exhibit 63.


Civilian Camp
Columbus, N.M.,
July 25th, 1917

Wm. D. Haywood,
1001 W. Madison St.,
Chicago,

Fellow Worker:

I have been instructed by our executive committee to write you and try to lay before you just what is our situation here, and what is apt to be the outcome if things are allowed to drift along as they have for the past week or two.

We are sticking together here in as solid a bunch as I have ever known in the history of the labor movement. Out of 1145 men who were given their liberty to go where they pleased on July 21st, not more than fifteen have drifted away, including five who have been sent on various missions by the executive committee. Even if we have to stay here two weeks longer, as long as the federal government in willing to feed us, I don’t think we would lose more than another fifty or seventy-five, in spite of the fact that many of the married men are greatly worried about their families.

Nevertheless there are other factors which are militating heavily against us. Time itself is one of the greatest. Remaining inactive is a fearfully hard task for even the best among us. It tends to cause criticism of their executive committee and of those in charge at Salt Lake and Chicago, and also gives the weak-kneed among us added encouragement for the belief some of them already entertain that the strike is lost and that it has resolved itself into an affair where each one of us will have to shift for himself and make the best of it.

There is a still more serious question to be considered—that is the situation at Globe. It seems to us that upon the outcome at Globe depends the fate of the I.W.W. throughout the entire state of Arizona. There Moyer’s union, ably represented by Joe Cannon, that the sooner the bosses come to a realization that they will have an opportunity to make his union solid through the check-off system and by the same move, put us on the toboggan slide. If such a move occurs while we are still stewing here at Columbus, it will kill any chance we may have of winning our fight in Bisbee. It therefore seems to us imperative that we make a move towards getting back to our homes before Cannon has a chance to frame up a game of that kind at Globe.

From all present indications I believe we will have to abandon any idea of the federal government taking any action in our favor until we actually force them to make some move. Those in authority here are doing everything they can in petty ways to force us out of the camp and scatter all over the country. Wires sent to President Wilson and Secretary of Labor Wilson bring me reply. Everything goes go show that the government intends to remain inert and allow us to disintegrate gradually while Washington pretends to investigate.

The only move we can figure out is to start back for our homes in the Warren District in one solid body. That may look easy from a distance, but I want to tell you it is a terrible undertaking. With the thermometer generally at one hundred degrees in the shade through the day and far more in the sun; when you consider we have to march over a rough trail through a desert, ten to fifteen miles a day will be the limit, unless we can commandeer a train, and there is very little hope of that on a railroad owned outright by Phelps-Dodge.

The object of such an attempt would be to force the hand of the federal government and at the same time create a wave of sympathy towards our cause throughout the entire country. This would effectively offset the machinations of the Moyerites and those other A.F.L harpies who, under the guise of friendship, are merely marking time and awaiting the opportunity to knife us.

It is useless to attempt such an undertaking without funds. We must provide stations along the entire route to which food and provisions can be shipped ahead. There must be almost perfect commissary arrangements, for it is not part of our plan to sacrifice our good human material. I believe that before we reach the Arizona state line the federal government would be forced by a wave of public sentiment throughout the United States to provide protection and transportation for the remainder of the journey.

This is why we have been pestering you for money during the last two days. We must have funds here at the Columbus State bank to make this attempt. Not only will it be the means of winning the Bisbee strike, but it is almost certain to put new life in every man on strike all through the industry and show the bosses that such an indomitable spirit is not to be overcome.

Our men here are absolutely to be depended upon for such an undertaking. They would welcome it provided they can be shown they are not to be sent out on the desert as a wanton, useless sacrifice. If you can do your part in providing the funds, we will guarantee results at this end.

We are greatly disappointed in Perry at the Salt Lake office and whoever is acting there with him. Taking up first the matter of the six-hour day. Bisbee went on strike because the membership there forced us to go out in sympathy with Butte, more than for any idea of winning better conditions for ourselves. And we knew that to make demands which were not practically the same as those presented by Butte would be likely to injure the boys there and to explain this over the phone but could not make myself clear. The only thing I succeeded in doing was to stand him off from one day to another, and he thinks that that I double-crossed him.

A demand for a six-hour day would have been our greatest mistake in Arizona. Such a demand along the raw material we have would require a campaign of education and organization extending over a couple of years. The whole strike would have ended in a complete fiasco long ago if that demand had been incorporated, not because the mining companies would have been too strong for us, but because of our own incredibility of such an idea at the present. It is too new and untried (I know that is a bourgeois expression) but I want to convey that it is not deep rooted in our minds, even among rebels who have been in the movement for years. It will require heaps of education to implant that, there is no use spoiling a strike that is teaching us the lesson of solidarity by including a demand regarded by the overwhelming majority among ourselves as a chimera.

This is a solidarity strike and we must concentrate on that phase of it. The demands made are wholly secondary. Whether they are won as a whole or only in part is of minor importance. The fact that we stand together, man to man, one camp solid with the other, teaching the entire country the practical lesson of industrial solidarity is the whole aim and object of this strike, and any demand which would tend to weaken the common sentiment of one toward the other would be a severe blow to the entire movement.

The publication in Solidarity of those educational demands which were drawn up at the convention at Bisbee as an inducement to aid us in the general work of organization, and thereby creating the belief in Michigan and the Mesaba Iron Range and Utah that we are striking for a six-hour day in Arizona so that such a demand will be included at those points in case any of them decide to join the strike, with the ultimate object of forcing us here in Arizona to also include those demands, we regard as a piece of slick work which is bitterly resented here, and which we regard as wholly unworthy of anyone holding an official position in our organization. You in Chicago know what our demands were, and we are putting it up to you to rectify the wrong that has been done the entire organization by this instance of steering from above. The rank and file among us are capable of exercising common sense and are determined that their affairs will not be run for them by one, two or three men at Salt Lake City.

We also resent a policy of pinching pennies at this stage of the game. Yesterday a wire was sent collect to Perry asking him to send funds to the Los Angeles Grocery at Bisbee, a firm we owe nearly a thousand dollars and which is right up to date taking care of about forty of our families, and which the Phelps-Dodge Co. is trying to force out of business by buying up all their outstanding accounts and giving them until Saturday to pay up. This wire the operator at Salt Lake informed us, was refused by Perry, presumably because it was sent collect. We are so near completely broke down here that it took me two hours the other day to find a man I could borrow five dollars from to send a wire to President Wilson. While we have not spread this through the camp, the sentiment among the crowd here for the last few days has been rather bitter against the Salt Lake office, Perry and O’Hair in particular. They are looking for and have a right to expect, more action at that point than they have observed. They want to know what is being done at Bingham Canyon and at Ely, Nevada, towards bringing those points in line with Montana and Arizona. I know that I am laying myself open to attack by putting this up to you, but that’s only an incident compared to the welfare of our common cause.

We are scanning the capitalist papers daily in the hope of news that the Mesaba Range and Michigan are on the move. We know they are both tough propositions and we believe you yourself are doing all you can to get them in line.

Our families in Bisbee, Lowell and other parts of the Warren district, keep sending us reports that the relief handed out to the rank and file is inadequate. My wife and relatives of those who took any prominent part in the movement report that the very thugs and gunmen who drove us out are trying to square themselves by providing more than enough relief for them. But the Mexican families and Slavonian and those they consider of no importance are neglected. We must also have money to aid those.

It is about time to wind up this epistle if I want to get it off in this mail. I am wiring you today again and will continue to every day. This letter will explain why.

Yours for the Solidarity Strike,