2,000 vigilantes cops, armed and deputized, chase spread about 2,000 union workers out of Arizona.


A little history on Arizona's labor issues

Mar. 5, 2006 12:00 AM

T oday's question:

What does it mean when they say Arizona is a right-to-work state?

I wish you guys weren't so casual about the way you bandy about the w-word. Some of us are very sensitive about that, you know.

But I guess I will just have to steel myself as best I can and take up this matter.

Yes, indeed, Arizona is a right-to-w-w-w-work state. It's right there in the state Constitution, Article XXV.

What it means is that you cannot be made to join a labor union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. And you cannot be fired if you don't join a union or if you resign from a union.

In addition to the private sector, the law covers local and state government workers, college faculties and public school teachers.

Twenty-one other states and Guam have right-to-work rules. The states tend to be in the West and South.

I don't want to go into all the nuts and bolts of right-to-work laws. In a nutshell, the people who don't like them would tell you they weaken the unions' ability to protect workers against big business. People who favor right-to-work laws would tell you the laws promote economic and job growth.

Arizona has had its ups and downs on labor matters over the years.

One thing we can be proud of: Cesar Chavez, who founded the United Farm Workers Union and who devoted his life to protecting migrant farm workers, was a native Arizonan. He died in 1993. Remember when we were supposed to boycott table grapes?

One of the most shameful incidents in Arizona's labor history occurred in Bisbee on July 12, 1917. About 2,000 vigilantes, armed and deputized, spread out over the town early that day and rounded up about 2,000 members and sympathizers of the Industrial Workers of the World - the Wobblies - who were pretty radical for their day and scared the pants off the copper companies.

The union people were herded into a baseball park, and later in the day about 1,200 of them were forced into boxcars and hauled to a military facility at Columbus, N.M. And they were told they'd be killed if they ever showed up in Bisbee again.

There was a federal investigation, and the matter ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the copper company vigilantes.

It wasn't one of Arizona's proudest moments.

Reach Thompson at clay .thompson@arizonarepublic .com or (602) 444-8612.

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