I live here in Silver City, just up the street, and my wife has shown the Salt of the Earth movie in her classes when she taught women’s studies. I have seen the movie, and I am a union member. I think all of what happened is important.
What I know about the strike is what I learned from the movie and what little I have read about it. The strike was important because it was the Hispanic employees seeking equal treatment that they were not getting because they were not white. Especially in the 50’s, people did not get treated equally. In Hollywood, if you had anyone even say you were communist, you were blacklisted. It was significant that they were successful with the movie even though the cast and crew were blacklisted, the star was deported, and a lot of the cast were not even actors; they were just local people. And it is actually a good quality movie.
The strike was the only method to organize. You have to hold a company’s feet to the fire if you want something, but companies are not going to give you something just because it is fair. We are in a time period right now where it is easy to see those same kind of conditions. People are not treated fairly; they are not given a living wage. The strikers during the Empire Zinc mine strike banded together and stuck it out for a long time. They were fairly successful and realized they could not just roll over and give up. It’s harder to strike now because the unions are not as powerful and the laws have changed against organized labor.
I would like the Union hall to be used, not just for Grant County, but open to the whole US. It is not just a local accomplishment. This is what people are still trying to achieve all across the country. I would like to keep the memory of the strike and the people that were in it alive, to remind people how difficult it is to get equality.