Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project


Version 072307




Courtesy: JIM FOSTER

Published in “Labor History”



As historians have paused to reflect upon almost three centuries of organized Labor, a theme which emerges ever more fre­quently is the enigma of the migrant worker. E.P. Thompson, discussing the rise of the English working class, made special note of the "tramping artisan," the worker whose restless search for work took him all over, 19th century England" E.J. Hobsbawm, writing on the same subject, called the custom of tramp­ing "the artisan's equivalent of the Grand Tour." (2) In the United States, the classic work of the Barnett school, Lloyd Ulman's Rise of the National Trade Union, cites worker mobility and the ad­ministrative consequences of same as the prime factor in the development of the American trade union. (3) Worker mobility seems to have been a fact of life in the labor movement from the" begin­ning and possibly excepting the slave South, it is a factor which should be closely examined in any study of worker organization. In the mining West, tramping and migration were personified in that group of miners who styled themselves "the ten day tramps."

It is a sad fact of traditional history that only the literate and the sedentary survive. It is their records, writings, and memora­bilia which travel through time to the second and third generation. The mobile, the less literate, and the tramp may have lived a much more exciting life, but all they can leave history is an ex­citing tale which fades with life and is lost in death. To recapture the life of the ten day tramp has proven a most difficult undertaking indeed. Only the fading memories of a few mining



1 E. P. Thompson. The Making of the English Working Class (New York, 1964), 240-242.        .

2 E. J. Hobsbawn, "The Tramping Artisan," Economic History Review. Series 2, 3 (1951), 313.

3 Particularjy Par.t II . "The Traveling Member and the National Union" Lloyd Ulman, The Rise of the National Trade Union (Cambridge, MA, 1955),49-152.


veterans remain to remind us of the days when a teenager would try to pass himself off as an experienced 21 year old and begin the tramp that would take him from Arizona to California to Mon­tana. Only a few yellowed union cards remain to show us, how the embattled Western Federation of Miners (WFM) hoped to deal with this important segment of western society. Indeed, the problem of the migrant-miner is one which requires the investiga­tory preferences of both the social historian and the labor re­porter. Between 1893 and 1920, it was a subject which the WFM addressed at almost every meeting.

What was it like to tramp the West in the teens? A number of interviews with mining veterans in Arizona and, Colorado gave the following composite picture. All informants agreed on one fact, it was a young man’s game. The rigors of mining for a few weeks in one camp and then hopping a freight looking for better pay, a cleaner bunkhouse, fancier food on the table, and prettier young ladies to serve it were not for the over-forty-set. A few miners were forced to tramp when the mines closed or a strike shut down operations, but the regular migrants were young and daring. As one old miner told me after a conspiratorial wink:

    We were young Footloose, and fancy free. We could get work in any camp and the pay was pretty good. Besides there was always a camp just over the hill which we had never seen and a boarding house which was rumored to have the prettiest waitresses in the West. We'd usually work one job for no more than a month or two, long enough to sample the cooking, wink at the waitresses (the best ones were at Burke. Idaho), and make enough to carry us to the next camp. No, we never paid to ride the train. In fact, the first time I ever paid to ride a train was when I was in my forties.” (4)


That particular miner had wandered throughout Arizona, Cali­fornia, Utah, Montana and Idaho before he had settled down in Superior, AZ to mine copper. His constant companion for most of those years was a younger brother whose mining skill could win him a miner's position at most any camp. (5)


4 Interview with Arturo Jorquez, Tempe, AZ, May 4, 1977. Jorquez noted that he had always carried an IWW card because it was the equivalent of a railroad pass on the freights of the West. Even company detectives rarely threw IWW men off a train.

5 Interview with Livrado Jorquez, Superior, AZ, April 9, 1977.


When the old miner spoke of "good pay" he was referring to a miner's scale which was almost universal in the West between 19 I 0 and 1930 (with the exception of the inflated war years). Miners who had experience on either the old "dry" drilling ma­chines the new "wet" machines, or with the hand steel which a few smaller operations still used into the 1920s (this was partic­ularly common around Cripple Creek, CO), were assured of at least $3.50 per day for mining or $3.00 per day for muck­ing. (6) A few particularly skilled occupations in bad mines would bring more (the scale at Bingham Canyon, UT called for as much as $4.50. for blacksmiths and $4.00 for machine-men in wet shafts) and, as World War I approached, all wages in the West moved upward.(7) Copper miners, in Arizona made as much as $6.75 during the war years. (8) Such wages made the miner the prince of the tramps, for those who tramped without mining or other specialized skills could expect no more than $1.00-$2.00 per day. The tramping miner could do quite well in the West of nickel beer and bargain beef. (9)

While tramping may have been an individual adventure and a sociological phenomenon of more than passing interest, it was interesting to organized labor in quite a different way. Every tramp miner was a potential scab. With no loyalty to the local union and no family responsibility, the tramp was unlikely to seek the security of a union hall or the solidarity of collective bargaining. Labor unions had realized this from the beginning and had struggled for years to reconcile their fear of tramps with the


6 Interview with Bill Waters, Mountain View Nursing Home, Cripple Creek, CO, Aug. 8, 1978. Waters explained that he was a mucker and that throughout the teens and the twenties his wage was $3.00-$3.50 per day.

His recollections agreed with almost all published WFM scale determinations of the early teens. For instance, Vincent St. John's report of the San Juan (Col­orado) scale of 1902 cited miners' pay at $4.00 for machine men and $3.00 for muckers working an eight hour day (Minutes of the Executive Board of the WFM, June 9, 1902, Western Federation of Miners Collection, Western History, Collection, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder; also, Wage Scale of District 6, Western Federation of Miners, n.d. [1916], Box 155, Folder 4, IUMMSW Collection, Uni­versity of British Columbia Library, Vancouver, B.C. [scale = miners $3.50, muckers $3.00, and general labor $3.00]).                    ,

7 Minutes of regular meeting of Bingham Canyon (UT) Local 67, July 20, 1907, Box 2, Vernon Jensen Collection, Labor Relations Documentation Center, Cor­nell Univ., Ithaca, NY.               .

8 Federal Labor Administrator Award, Jerome District, in History Drawer 10, His­torical File 1909-1922, United Verde. Copper Company Office (Phelps-Dodge), Jerome, AZ.

9 Interview with Bill Waters, Aug. 8, 1978. Waters had been the milk delivery man in Cripple Creek in the period 1916-1917 at $1 per day plus supper until the higher pay of the mines lured him away from .the job.


certain knowledge that much of the membership tramped. This paradoxical attitude was best expressed by the Iron Molders' Journal in a sing1e editorial in its February 1877 issue. Tramps, wrote the editor, were the "real bane of the working class." In almost the same sentence, he noted that "spring will start many of our members on the tramp." (10) What could unions do to stop members from becoming the "bane of the working class?" Several organizations tried "tramping funds."

The tramping fund, as it was most often found, was merely a local reserve drawn from dues which could be used to keep tramp­ing brothers out of the labor market but off of the street. Custom dictated that the traveling brother asks for no more than a few nights food and lodging before he moved on to a new commu­nity; a week's rest would be a serious breach of manners. How­ever, this did not always work as the unions hoped. Periods of economic depression, excessive demands upon the fund, or just a few tramps that refused to live by the rules could bankrupt a tramping fund. The Cigar Makers' International, which had long experience with tramping funds, carried this cryptic warning from its Fort Wayne local in the national journal. "Those on the road," advised the fort Wayne correspondent," would confer a favor by bringing a little change with them when this way to assist some that are here, instead of expecting assistance." (11)

The ulti­mate fate of the tramping fund experiment was neatly stated by a Louisville printer who bitterly addressed the following to the Detroit Labor Leaf. Be on the lookout for one Oliver Davis from Ontario, he warned the readers of the Leaf: "He came here in very bad shape and received two week's board at the expense of my purse . . . tried to burst a faro bank and got broke." (12) It is interesting to note that not a single WFM local resorted to the tramping funds as a means of dealing with migrants. (13)

The Western Federation's approach to tramping was both structural and educational. On the structural side, a variety of WFM committees periodically wrestled with plans for a new and improved travel card. (14)


 10 Iron Molders' Journal, Mar. 1877, 238-239.

11 Cigar Makers' Journal, Mar. 1877, 10.

12 Detroit Labor Leaf, Feb. 25, 1885.

13 A review of all the local union constitutions collected by Vernon Jensen shows

that not a single one made provisions for a tramping fund although every one had special provisions for transfer of tramp miners. See for example Tintic District Miners Union Local 151 Constitution and By-Laws, Box 2, Vernon Jensen Collection.


As old as the national trade union ­movement, the traveling card allowed a tramping worker to check out of one local and check into a new local (presumably at the end of his tramp) without the burden of paying costly initiation fees for reinstatement. Lloyd Ulman wrote that other unions had adopted the traveling card as a defense against the membership of defunct locals. (15) Considering the average age of a WFM local (6.33 years), such a practical consideration may have influenced the Federation's architects as well. However, the most cogent rationale for an effective traveling card was ex­pressed by E.G. Locke of Bingham Canyon while debating a proposed five year card at the 1907 WFM Convention. Said Locke: "The great majority of the members of the Western Federation of Miners are itinerant. They are traveling, around from place to place and pay little attention to what kind of card they have. You can make it of gold and I will guarantee that so called tramp miner or ten day miner will not keep it.” (16) Other delegates jumped into the debate with their own stories about ten day tramps, lost traveling cards, and the difficulties of keeping a traveling miner's dues straight. J.T. Lewis of Globe, AZ expressed the frustrations of all when he roundly condemned the "hobo miners" who could lose a dozen cards a year and stick nearest local with the cost of paying for them ($10.00 per hun­dred from Denver). (17) If nothing else, the debate showed that the traveling card had not proven to be a satisfactory method of ­controlling tramp miners.


14 This was done in several stages. First, the 1902 (Tenth) Convention of the WFM created a universal WFM membership card which would be carried with a member in addition to a transfer card. To this card, a stamp would be :affixed every quarter indicating a payment of dues. Once this was done, Haywood suggested the abolition of the old transfer card to simplify the work of local secre­taries. The third step was a 1907 Haywood plan for a five year WFM mem­bership card which would be used both us a transfer and a regular membership card. None of these plans really seemed to solve the bureaucratic problems created by tramping. Minutes of the Executive Board of the WFM, Nov. 26, 1902, WFM Collection.

15 Ulman, 108-112.                              .

16 The 1907 proposal was' merely Haywood's plan brought before the assembled delegates at the 1907 convention. Proceedings of the Fifteenth Convention of the WFM, June 10 to July 3, 1907, Denver, CO, 827-829. Information on the life spans of locals came from the WFM Data Bank described in James C. Fos­ter, "Quantification and the Western Federation of Miners," Historical Methods Newsletter, Fall, 1977.

17 Proceedings of the Fifteenth Convention of the WFM . . . 1907, 828.


How serious -was the tramp miner problem? Consider for a moment the case of Patrick H. Callahan, a member in good stand­ing of WFM Local 106 (Bisbee, AZ) as of January 1909. Things were bad in Bisbee. The union waged an almost open war with. Phelps Dodge and the other copper companies, and violence was not uncommon. Although he gave no official reason for his move, Callahan packed up his things in July and headed for California. The WFM next saw him when he reported to Local 174 in Ken­nett, CA and asked to be admitted by transfer. By the usual practice, he paid $ 1 as a reduced initiation fee for travelers and began work. The beauties of Kennett must have begun to pale by late summer for Callahan was on the move by September. The pay may have been better elsewhere or rumor may have filtered out about a particularly enticing boardinghouse, but, for what­ever reason, he presented his traveling card to French Gulch (CA) Local 141 on September 4, 1909. If Kennett had proven unsatisfactory, French Gulch apparently was no more appealing because Denver received a transfer card in January 1910 noting that Callahan had tramped to Mohave Local 51 (still Califor­nia). Three months at Mohave was all that Callahan could take and April, 1910 found him on the tramp again-this time some­where in Colorado. Southern Colorado was a no-man's land of United Mine Worker locals and defunct WFM unions killed off in the great Colorado Labor War. There, Callahan came across Edward Crough, an organizer in one of the WFM's most interesting experiments, the Union-at-Large. However, even this union of drifters did not hold Callahan long and July found him back at French Gulch. All in all, Callahan would drift through ten locals (and the Union-at-Large) in little over a year and his tramping would not stop until 1921 when he leased the Smooth­bore Mine in Tuolumne County, CA and settled down as a small­ time mine owner. (18) Peregrinations such as Callahan's, while not uncommon, caused the Federation a great deal of trouble.

The real problem was the local's responsibility to the migrant miner. Every time that Pat Callahan paid the migrant's initiation fee of $1.00 and checked' into a new local he immediately became eligible for a union-paid workman’s compensation program that had­ brought many men into the WFM. Most


18 Membership card and other documents, Various dates (1909-1921). Patrick Calla­han Collection (P939), Manuscripts Division. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN.


plans guaran­teed members between $7.00 and $10.00 per week for any work missed due to mine-related injury. (19) Because state-financed com­pensation laws did not appear on the scene until much later this WFM benefit was a very attractive incentive to union member­ship. However, there was a catch. Locals had to pay all benefits out of their own funds. Help from Denver was not available. Therefore, there was a certain amount of reluctance about ac­cepting tramp members who rarely stayed long enough in one, place to compensate the local for even a week's worth of benefits. If Callahan stayed in a local for a month, his contribution to that local's treasury would be $2.00 (initiation plus a month's dues). Even a minor injury would mean that the local would have to pay him at least $7.00 and perhaps more. It was a losing proposition.

Haywood understood the financial facts which made the mi­grant a risky proposition for locals in the WFM. After all, he had been secretary of Silver City, ID Local 66 during a period when almost every union meeting seemed devoted to some as­pect of miner's compensation. (20) Thus, when Haywood began ex­ercising the duties of WFM Secretary-Treasurer in 1902, one of his first concerns was easing the local burden of the transfer mem­ber. It was Haywood who told the Executive Board that the transfer card system would have to be improved. (21) It was Haywood who helped implement a new



19 The various compensation plans were written into local constitutions,' a few ex­amples were:

I) Grass Valley (CA) Miners Union Local 90, compensation for injury shall be “$7.00 for the first week and $1.00 per day thereafter for the next 15 weeks,” p. 15. Constitution and By-Laws, Grass Valley Miners Union No. 90, Box 2,Vernon Jensen .Collection.

2) Pony Miners and Millmen’s Union (Montana) declared that injury and sick­ness shall be compensated at the rate of $ 10.00 per week for a maximum of ten weeks, Constitution aid By-Laws, Pony Miners and Millh1ens Union, p. 21, Box 2, Vernon Jensen Collection.

20 In his very first meeting as local secretary (Nov. 9, 1896), Haywood was imme­diately faced with the problems of transfers and benefits. A certain "Wm. Mitchell," wrote Haywood, was accorded "2 weeks sick benefits $20.00." His second meeting brought him the more complicated' problem of determining sick benefits for a tramping brother who had moved to Mercur, UT. In Haywood's hand, "Notice from H.M. Brant, M.D., Mercur, Utah saying Barney Coli had come under his care Nov. 10 (and) claims to have been sick since November 2nd. Secretary ordered to write for information."

See Minutes of meeting of Silver City Miners Union Local 66. Nov. 9. 1896 and Nov. 30, 1896, Silver City Minute book (P-H 105), Bancroft Library Unv. Of California, Berkeley.


system of membership stamps, supposedly a system which would make the local secre­tary's job easier when dealing with the Pat Callahan’s of the WFM. (22) It was also Haywood who single-handedly designed and implemented one of the WFM's most interesting tramp experi­ments, the Union-at-Large.

During a long Executive Board meeting on November 26, 1902, Haywood interrupted a dull series of deliberations about local union organizing; rights by asking the Board to consider creating a whole new structure for certain kinds of organizational problems. This new structural entity, which he dubbed the Union­-at-Large, would be an organization tied directly to Denver and empowered to organize miners where no local had previous ju­risdiction. Denver would hire organizers (who would be paid a percentage of the recruits' initiation fees), Denver would keep all members' records, and Denver would receive all dues direct­ly. Theoretically, such a body would have particular success in organizing the tramps and drifters of the mining West and should do equally well in founding locals in areas never previously penetrated by the WFM. (23) This was Haywood's hope.

The success of the Union-at-Large (U-A-L) was mixed at best. Founded with an injection of $2000.00, the body was only able ­to bring a few recruits into the fold before 1905-06. Haywood used his annual report as a platform from which he railed at his fellow unionists for their failure to make the U-A-L a viable proposition. Whereas the 1903 meeting had seen him proudly pro­claiming the Union-at-Large as "a feature that should tend to strengthen and build up the federation in members as well as finances,” (24) the end of its first year of existence was heralded by the disappointing note that "the Union-at-Large has grown but ­little during the year.” (25)  Perhaps the U-A-L would always have been disappointing to Haywood if a bright young organizer named James Paretto had not appeared on the


21 Minutes of the Executive Board of he WFM, Dec. 9, 1905 and June 15, 1906 WFM Collection.

22/bid. Also, Proceedings of the Eleventh Convention of the WFM, May 26 to June 10. 1903, Denver, CO, 38 (Secretary-Treasurer's Report).                                                     ­

23 Minutes of the Executive Board of the WFM, Nov. 26, 1902 and Dec. 3, 1902, WFM Collection.

24 Proceedings. . . 1903, 38.                                         .

25 Proceedings of the Twelfth Convention ,of the WFM, May 23 to June ,8f 1904, Denver, CO 28.

     The following year was no better as Haywood reported that the Union-at­


in 1906. A tramp himself, Paretto seemed to have an uncanny knack for winning Colorado miners to the WFM cause. Part of it was no doubt his Italian ancestry and language skill which allowed him to organize the immigrant miners of the Colorado coal fields who had resisted the blandishments of the best English-speak­ing organizers for years. Part of it must also have been that indescribable something which separates the good organizer from the rest. Whatever it was, Paretto and a few helpers were able to bring over 300 men into the U-A-L in 1907 alone. It was also during that year that Paretto opened a permanent office of the organization in Trinidad, CO and chartered three new WFM loca1s with a total membership of over 400 miners (the U-A-L locals being No. 162 at Walsenburg, No. 173 at Aguilar, and No. 198 at Trinidad). (26) Paretto did so well that Secretary James Kirwan (acting in Haywood's absence) announced that the U-A-L had brought over $5000 into WFM coffers in fiscal 1907 (27)

The income of the Union-at-Large, however, could be quite deceiving. A glance at Appendix “A”, shows that the organization's income varied from, almost nothing to some rather healthy figures. More importantly, the same figures show that the U-A-L rarely made the profit that Haywood had predicted in his 1903 annual report. (28)  Yet, the Union-at-Large did much of what it was supposed to do. It did organize many of the supposed to do. It did organize many of the tramp miners of the Rockies. As Pat Callahan’s transfer card revealed, a tramp miner was likely to run into the U-A-L or one of its organizers at least once in his career. Moreover, it had an educational function which


Large had managed to bring in only $273.95 in initiation fees and transfers in the entire year. This would amount to no more than 135 new members and perhaps as few as 50 members if the higher $5.00 initiation fee were charged. See Proceedings of the Thirteenth Convention of the WFM. May 22 to June 6, 1905, Denver. 200.

26 Report of James Parello to the Fifteenth Convention of the WFM. Proceedings of the Fifteenth Convention of the WFM … 1907, 253-255.     

Also. Minutes of the Executive Board of the WFM, Dec. 12, 1905, May 22, 1906, and June 14, 1906. WFM CoIlection.           

27 Report of the Acting Secretary-Treasurer to the Fifteenth Convention of the WFM in Proceedings... 1907. 135. Also see Appendix A.

28 As Appendix A .shows. the cost of hiring organizers and paying compensation benefits (the U-A-L paid $10 per week for sickness until 1907 when the rate was reduced to $5 per week) almost always surpassed the amount of dues monies and initiation fees taken in by the organization. Minutes of the Execu­tive Board of the WFM, Dec. 10, 1906, WFM CoIlectlon.


was hard to assess. As Paretto explained at both a private session with the WFM Executive Board and at the 1907 Conven­tion, the U-A-L was most successful in bringing Italian and Ser­bian miners to believe that unionism was a necessity in the Rocky Mountain West. His report noted that even those miners who returned to the coal fields of the United Mine Workers took with them the seed of WFM ideology and thought. (29) The Union-at-­Large was the virus with which the WFM hoped to infect the mining community of America.

While Paretto's work was limited to the United States and Colorado in particular, the work of his colleagues spread union­ism to tramp miners as far away as British Columbia. One of these, tramp organizers was Steve Oberto, an organizer who trav­e1ed from Denver to Rossland to help WFM District Six (British Columbia) cope with an influx of non-union Italian miners. The problem in District Six was that English-speaking organizers had never made substantial inroads among the Italian miners' work­ing in Fernie, Rossland, and elsewhere. When given the opportu­nity to engage a U-A-L organizer from Denver. District Six Secretary-Treasurer A. Shilland jumped at the chance and immediately told both Denver and his Executive Board that only a foreign-language man should be sent. By his own calculations, Shilland estimated that about half the Austrian miners of the province were unorganized and over two thirds of the Italians had refused to join WFM Locals. (30) The man that the U-A-L sent was Steve Oberto.

        Oberto went right to work at Rossland and quickly discovered that English organizers had made only the most rudimentary efforts to incorporate Italian miners' into the fabric of local union life. Nobody had bothered to explain to the recent immigrants that union members had to pay dues once a


29 Report of E.M. White on Union-at-large activities in Colorado Proceedings. 1907. 253 also Minutes of the Executive Board..., Dec. 10, 1906, WFM Col­lection.

30 A. Shilland to Executive Board, District 6, WFM, Feb. 23, 1911. Box 156,. Folder 2, JUMMSW Collection. Shilland asked the Board to consider hiring "Brother Tom Corrigan" of Idaho, who spoke four languages fluently. This was not a particularly unusual request as the Executive Board of the WFM was asked by many district unions to send in U-A-L organizers on some sort of cost-sharing basis. See for example the request by Marion Moor representing the Arizona State WFM locals to bring in a U-A-L man to organize the camp of Bisbee. Minutes of the Executive Board . . . Dec. 13, 1905, WFM Collection.


month. No one had, felt it necessary to tell the recruits that failure to pay such dues would cast them into the netherworld of scabs and other union enemies. Thus, when the newly-organized fell into arrears, they were shocked and humiliated to discover that their union brothers treated them as scabs. Once this occurred, the dues-paying friends of the victims retaliated against the shabby treatment accorded Italian miners by dropping out of the local as well. All in all, the Rossland local had been split down the middle by an English organizer who brought a few Italian tramps into the fold without informing them of their new obligations, and informing them in Italian. Oberto remedied the situation in a few days of diplomat­ic negotiations, negotiations carried on in the miners’ native tongue. (31) It was this kind of attention to detail which made the Union-at-Large very valuable tool in its heyday.­

While the U-A-L was Denver's official ambassador to the tramps, the ramp miners themselves often had more dealings with local unions than they did with Denver. It was the local which administered compensation benefits. It was the local which kept transfer cards straight. Most of all, it was the local which offered some form of day-to-day health insurance. Bill Waters, a mucker from Cripple Creek noted that it was just such health insurance which helped him survive the dread flu epidemic of 1918. Unloading an overloaded ore car in the rain, he had soon come down with the dread influenza which kept him in the hospital for two weeks, al1 expenses paid by a company health plan negotiated by the WFM local back in 1904 (the plan survived long after the Colorado Labor Wars had killed the local). (32) Such plans were similar in. many ways to one devised by the Rossland, Miners' Union in 1916. For $1.00 per month (Rossland scale was $3.50 per day for miners), the member would be furnished free medicine, dressings, medical care, hospital facilities, and even the skills of a specialist when needed. The Rossland agreement specified that everything except dental work, venereal disease, drunkenness, or other immoral practices would be treated free of charge for members of the plan and,


31 Steve Oberto to A. Shilland, May 2, 1911, Box 156, Folder 2, IUMMSW Collec­tion.

32 Interview with Bill Waters, Cripple Creek, CO, Aug. 8, 1918. he interesting thing about the Cripple Creek doctors agreement was that it remained the same even after the mine owners had succeeded in expelling the WFM,  from the camp.


if the miner wished to purchase a "family ticket," an additional dol1ar a month would cover all dependents medical expenses. (33) Mining has never been a healthy occupation, so bargain coverage of this sort convinced Bill. Waters and many other miners to end their tramp where medical benefits were good.

On the tramp, in the local, or pursued by the Union-at-Large, the ten day tramp was always an organizational problem for the Federation. A union of itinerants, the WFM expected a turn­ over of almost 49 percent in each local yearly. (31) That meant that almost half of the members of a given local would pack, their things and take to the road before the year was out. Where were they bound and why? The few old men who still remember their tramping days talk of wanderlust, of adventure, of almost a rite of passage. It was simply the exciting thing to do before you were ready to settle down, a poor man's way of seeing America, A young man's way to learn about life. Yet, it was a phenomenon that gave Denver more worry than it wanted.

How successful was the WFM in bringing tramps into the fold? A review of the statistical evidence in Appendix B shows that the tramp was always part of the WFM. Even when mem­bership remained almost static, about a third of card-carry­ing WFM members could be classified as tramps and such a fig­ure did not take the Union-at-Large into consideration. Were the migrant-dominated locals different than their more sedentary brethren? Appendix C statistically divides WFM locals into tramp-dominated (70 plus percent turnover per year) and sedentary (Less than 30 percent turnover in a year)


33 Doctors Agreement Between Rossland Miners Union No. 38. and the Doctors of Rossland. June 18, 1916. Box 155. Folder 4. IUMMSW Collection. A simi­lar agreement was made in Sandon, British Columbia with one important exception, the Sandon Miners Union had decided to build its own hospital be­cause "'The principle, of operation for use rather than profit is, and has ever been one of the fundamental theories on which the structure of progressive Unionism has been reared." The Sandon facility offered health care to all miners paying the "Hospital Ticket" fee free of charge and offered care to others at the rate of $2.00 per day. The union hired and fired all doctors and hospital staff. (See, By-Laws and Sketch, Sandon Miners Union Hospital, Box 156. IUMMSW Collection).

34 WFM Data Bank. This was the mean figure for all WFM unions for which mem­bership data was available between 1893-1920. Some large and settled unions had a much smaller annual turnover figure. For instance, the records of the Rossland (BC) Miners Union showed an average annual turnover figure of about 10-12% in transfers, initiation of transferees, and new memberships. See Quarter Report Rossland Miners Union No. 38, Sept. 30, 1912 and Dec. 31, 1912, Box 154, Folder - Dues and Receipts, IUMMSW Collection,


locals and, compares each to the other and to the WFM mean in terms of strike success, incidents of violence, political preferences, and a variety of other variables. While features of both are similar, there were substantial differences in terms of industrial relations performance.

Tramp locals existed for a shorter period on the average, were involved in more strikes, and were less likely to win those strikes than the more stable WFM locals. The likelihood of violence dur­ing a strike was also increased when tramp locals took the field. Indeed, tramp locals were more than twice as violence prone as the non-tramps. Yet, the violence may have been useful for tramp locals did win more non-strike disputes than their counterparts and did so in a shorter period of time (shorter local life span). Perhaps the most interesting statistic is item l0 in Appendix C. In reply to WFM inquiries about local dissolution, most tramp locals noted "lack of interest" all other federations were more likely to cite "mines closed."

Was the WFM concern about tramps a valid one? On the one hand, the WFM never succeeded in bringing all the miners of the West into the union fold and many of those outsiders must have been tramps. Never could the WFM compare its success to that of its eastern counterpart the UMW. On the other hand, regression equations comparing success to tramp status and other variables show that tramp membership seemed to have little effect on a union's performance. The greatest impact that the dummy vari­able "Tramp/Stable" had on a regression equation occurred in the third example where it was added first. In none of the other equations did the dummy exceed a beta weight of .146 (not a major contributing factor). The size of a local's membership was apparently much more critical in predicting a local's success add life span.

In the long run, the obsession of Moyer arid Haywood with tramp miners may have distracted them from more important work. The crusade to win the tramps may have been just another false lead which the WFM followed in its futile search for success. Even with the tramps, the WFM failed.


On a personal level, tramping was quite another matter. Seventy-six year old Erresto Romero leaned back in his chair as my three hour interview with him drew to a close. His eyes seemed to cloud for a moment as he returned to his teens. "It was a good life," he concluded.



The Union-at-Large





Estimated Membership


U-A-L Income

U-A-L Expenses

(initiations- membership)


$              273.95

$               38.35

43 – 59


$            4,055.50

$          1,851.20

1235 – 635


$            5,146.00

$          6,252.00

954 – 1189


$            3,190.50

$          4,248.15

380 – 682


$               363.94

$               62.50

16 – 85


$            4,882.31

$          4,610.24

622 – 763


No Report



$                 25.50

$               45.50

 - 826*


$                 21.00


 - 826*



* actual membership (only recorded years)



WFM Tramps and Members **




Estimated Number



WFM Membership

of Tramps



































** initiation figures available for these years only


A Note on Methodology

Estimation of the number of tramps was done on a local by local basis using raw "transfer" figures when available, but more often using the raw "initiation” and "membership" statistics. Initiations = tramps + new members. whereas Membership = reinstatements + old members. The trick was to separate new members from transfers (tramps) in the initiation figures. The method used was as follows:




                             n                                                                           Where:

                 T = :z: e (M + I - Mp)    T = estimated number of tramps in local

                         n              M = membership of local in a given year

                 n = 4                                      I = initiations in that local in that year

                     (4 year observation) Mp = local membership the previous year

    And (M + I - Mp) = the initiated and members who disappeared from local between previous year and current year                 (tramps who left)

                T                              = a four year average of the number of tramps who left local weighed toward            the current year.

(All New locals were excluded as the "initiates" were unlikely to be tramps)















Tramp and Stable Locals



A Comparison of WFM Local Unions



  Stable         WFM Average

1. Membership (lifetime mean)





2. Existence (Local's life span)





3. Strikes (in local's life span)





4. Strikes Won (in local life pan)




5. Strike Success Ratio










6. Length of Strikes (average in days)




7. Industrial Relations Violence










8. Industrial Relations Victories





(strikes + others)





9. Membership Turnover per Year









10. Reason for Local Dissolution





(most common)





Code: 1 =Mines Closed, 2=Other Federation, 3=Lack of Interest, 4=Charter Revoked, 5=Strike,

           6=Consolidated or Reorganized



Tramp Locals and Industrial Relations Success



1. Industrial Relations Successes Regressed with


Multiple R



Beta Weight

a – Membership





b - Number of Strikes





c - Tramp/Stable





d – Existence





e - Amount of Violence





                                                          F = 12.556 with 5/33 DF significant at .0001)



2. Existence of Local Regressed with


Multiple R



Beta Weight

a – Membership





b - Number of Strikes





c - Tramp Stable





d - Amount of Violence





(F = 6.704 with 4/34 DF significant at .001)


3. Stepwise Regression of Success with


Multiple R



Beta Weight

a - Tramp/Stable





b - Membership Turnover





c – Membership





d - Amount of Violence





(F = 5.959 with 4/34 DF significant at .01)


Jim Foster is Associate Professor of Labor Relations and Co-ordinator of the Labor Studies Program as the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. His publications include the Union Politic (1975) and Labor in the Southwest (1982).


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