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W.P. Todd’s oral history transcript


Early 20th Century Labor Relations

“The (shift) ‘bosses’ are almost powerless to overcome the troubles, and we should rout out the active, vicious leaders (of the union), and remove them from our midst and thereby remove their evil influence from among our men.”

Charles Lawton, Quincy Mine General Manager, to Quincy Vice President William Parsons Todd, June 18, 1913

While Progressives championed reform in American business, militant labor unions began to agitate and organize for improvements in American industry and society. Mineworkers in dangerous and deadly jobs formed industrial unions such as the United Mine Workers of America, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and the WFM. The first two decades of the 20th century were tumultuous in regards to American labor relations with many incidents of strikes, lockouts and violence influencing how workers and management interacted. The Copper Country was no exception. Michigan copper mining companies saw increasing competition from lower cost mines in Montana and Arizona. With an eye toward revenue and profit, Michigan mines continued to seek ways to increase production and reduce the expense of a large workforce. Copper mining managers became suspicious of labor unions, often viewing them as “outside agitators” that might demand higher wages.
William Parsons Todd

William Parsons Todd, Vice President of the Quincy Mining Company during the strike, bitterly opposed unions. Todd brought replacement workers to Quincy, which union members called "scabs" as they were intended to cover the openings left by striking mineworkers.

A Copper Country International Moulders Union local parading across the bridge from Houghton into Hancock in the early 1900s. While there were many unions in the Copper Country, none organized miners before the WFM in 1906. International Moulders Union
Workers at the Kearsarge mine Workers at the Kearsarge mine sit for a photograph in the early 1900s. The dangerous working conditions in local mines made many copper workers receptive to organized labor.