In 1946 my dad helped organize a strike in Tyrone. Right after the strike in Tyrone we moved to Hannover. He worked at Empire Zinc. He was there in the mine. But when the strike broke out, the big shots came and got him a job in Silver City as a police officer, August of 1950. And to this day we still have friends from the strike. Because after the strike was over we had conflicts between families against families. To this day we still have the animosities, they linger in Hannover. My family and my dad, we went back to Hannover and have friends because he wasn’t involved. People crossing the picket line caused the animosities between people.. Cipriano Montoya, the vice president of the union, killed his wife because they thought that film was communist inspired. The wife’s took over the picket line, that was in the movie. He is still doing life without parole in California. My dad was the deputy Sheriff for 35 years. The women, the wives of the miners, from Hannover came to Silver City and surrounded the sheriff in his office and my dad took them out of there with his belt, saying “get the hell out of this office.”
That bare mountain that you see out there across from Hannover, it used to be all company houses. At that time, if a worker died, the whole family was evicted, regardless if he died on the job or a sickness or what have you. I happened to my aunt – Felix Melendez, my uncle, died in 1949 and she and her son came to live with us. I have a lot of pictures here of all the miners before the strike, my dad included.
There was a lot of grievances against the company. But me, I was a shop steward in LA. The first two weeks of the strikes it was all party, but when the bills started coming in, with no paycheck, the instigators were the first one to cross the line. We told them not to cross the line, to save money and buy groceries. The movie didn’t let the people know what was happening behind the scenes. And they were saying it was communist inspired and they brought that mexican actress in and they were saying that it she was a communist. The only hero that came out of that thing was Juan Chacon and he wasn’t involved in the strike. He was the president of the union, the head, and he supported those people.
The local 890, to this day and the company, they brought “right to work workers” and they voted the union out. And they brought these other non-union-workers out little by little and they were getting the union wages. The company was giving union wages to the non-union workers. To this day I haven’t seen the movie Salt of the Earth.