Jul. 12, 1917: The Bisbee Deportation

The Bisbee Deportation was the illegal deportation of about 1,300 striking mine workers (IWW-led strike), their supporters, and citizen bystanders by 2,000 vigilantes.
Bisbee Deportation

The University of Arizona Archives provides background on the strike.

On June 24, 1917, the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) presented the Bisbee, Arizona mining companies with a list of demands. These demands included improvements to safety and working conditions, such as requiring two men on each machine and an end to blasting in the mines during shifts. Demands were also made to end discrimination against members of labor organizations and the unequal treatment of foreign and minority workers. Furthermore, the unions wanted a flat wage system to replace sliding scales tied to the market price of copper. The copper companies refused all I.W.W. demands, using the war effort as justification. As a result, a strike was called, and by June 27 roughly half of the Bisbee work force was on strike.

On July 12, 1917, the striking workers and others were kidnapped and held at a local baseball park. They were then loaded onto cattle cars and transported 200 miles for 16 hours through the desert without food or water. The deportees were unloaded at Hermanas, New Mexico, without money or transportation, and warned not to return to Bisbee.

Borderline AmericansSee photos, primary documents, articles, and much more at The Bisbee Deportation of 1917 website archive from the University of Arizona.

We recommend reading Borderline Americans: Racial Division and Labor War in the Arizona Borderlands (2011) by Katherine Benton-Cohen.

For more labor history “outside the textbook,” see these resources on the Zinn Education Project website.

For a contemporary deportation story, see myths and facts about Central American youth at the border from Teaching for Change.

There are 3 comments by other visitors:

  • In the 70s three undocumented men were held and totured by the Hanigan brothers outside of Douglas az leading to major international protest and discussion on mexican nationals and the border issue

    Response shared by Delia — July 12, 2015 @ 2:44 pm

  • IWW workers were lynched in California in 1917 for Union Organizing ! Coeurs d’ Alane Idaho was the location of the shooting and burning of IWW/UMW mine workers, their wives and children in a tent city composed of mine workers on strike. The Massacre of Matewan, West Virhginia included the Murder of the Matewan County Sheriff who sympathized with the mine workers union organized strike. The Mine owners sent in hired thugs under the command of Pinkerton guards to attack the miners in what is referred to as the Mattewan Massacre. The Union Miners and the Sherriffs deputies wore Red Bandanas so they could tell friend from foe, and this was the birth of the much mis-used and misunderstood term of “RED NECKS”.
    America has a dirty history of executions and maiming and warring against Union workers, since America’s “Working Poor” first tried to organize in the 1850’s with the “Knights of Labor” the forerunners of the IWW and later the AFofL.

    Response shared by Don Schneider — July 12, 2016 @ 12:58 pm

  • In the early 1980s there were 5 meat processing plants run by IBP-Excel. 2 in Kansas, 2 in Nebraska, 1 in S. Dakota. The 3 northern plants were reporting about an accident a month to OSHA, caused by not stopping the assembly line and washing grease off the floor at regular intervals. Someone at OSHA noticed that the 2 plants in Kansas had NO accidents. Upon investigation they discovered that the workers at 3 plants up north were union represented. In Kansas the workers were non-union and mostly Hispanic and Asian and couldn’t read the safety notices. They had plenty of injuries, but they were sent to private doctors instead of worker compensated so OSHA was never told, they didn’t get fined and the floor wash-down never happened.

    Response shared by Frederick W Wilson — July 14, 2016 @ 4:46 pm

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