December 1917

[page 7]


Wilson’s Commission Denounces Business Men Who Deported Strikers.

Possibilities of both federal and state prosecution of a score or more of business men and other prominent citizens and officials of Bisbee, Ariz., in connection with the deportation of 1,200 striking miners from that city July 12 last, was forecast in recommendations to the President by the Labor Mediation Commission.

The deportation was carried out by the sheriff of Cochise county and about 2,000 armed men, “presuming to act as deputies under the sheriff’s authority,” the report said, and “was wholly illegal and without authority in the law, either state or federal.”

Law Abiding Citizens.

After extensive investigation of the cause and circumstances surrounding the copper miners’ strike, the commission found that the deportations were planned by a number of Bisbee citizens, including officials of the Phelps-Dodge and Calumet and Arizona mining interests, although no disorder or violence had been threatened by the strikers.

Most of the men forcibly herded together and sent out of the state on a  special train of box cars were law abiding American citizens, the report said, and few were Germans and Austrians.

No reference was made in the report to the question of whether any were members or leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Attempted Censorship.

The commission reported that the deportation interfered with operation of the selective draft law and suggested the President refer the leaders to Attorney General Gregory.

It was also found that the leaders in the enterprise utilized the local office of the Bell Telephone Company and attempted to exercise a censorship over parts of interstate telephone and telegraph lines, to prevent information concerning the deportations from reaching the outside world.

This situation should be referred to the Interstate Commerce Commission for investigation, the commission suggested.

The commission recommended further that steps be taken to prevent interference with men who seek admission to the Warren mining district “in a peaceful and lawful manner”; [sic] that the responsible law officers of the state and county pursue appropriate remedies” [sic] for the vindication of the law, and that deportations be made a criminal offense.

The deportations and the usurpation of judicial functions by a self-delegated body of citizens for more than a month afterward, the commission said, “have even been made the basis of an attempt to affect adversely public opinion among some of the people of the allies.” It is set forth also that memory of the deportation “still embarrasses the establishment of industrial peace,” which is declared essential for successful prosecution of the war.

One of the principle faults contributing to the original troubles, the commission found, was the lack of any sort of a mediation body. Machinery to adjust future labor difficulties has now been established by the commission in the Arizona field, however.

The report is signed by Secretary Wilson, chairman of the commission; J. L. Spangler, E. P. Marsh and J. H. Walker, members of the commission, and Felix Frankfurter, counsel.

Mr. Reed did not sign the report as he was in San Francisco in connection with the strike of telephone operatives there when the Bisbee investigation was made.