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Palomino: Clinton Jencks and Mexican-American Unionism in the American Southwest

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Labor historian James J. Lorence presents the first comprehensive biography of progressive labor organizer, peace worker, and economist Clinton Jencks (1918 - 2005). A key figure in the radical International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (IUMMSW) Local 890 in Grant County, New Mexico, Jencks was involved in organizing not only the mine workers but also their wives in the 1951 strike against the Empire Zinc Company. He was active in the production of the 1954 landmark labor film dramatizing the Empire Zinc strike, Salt of the Earth , which was heavily suppressed during the McCarthy era and led to Jencks's persecution by the federal government.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09480-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    James Lorence and Donna Lorence
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Clinton Jencks, Mine-Mill, and Biography as History
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    I was first drawn to the engaging personality of Clinton E. Jencks through the back door of films as social history, a field of study itself struggling to be acknowledged as a central feature of the new cultural history. In the mid-1980s my teaching responsibilities included the regular offering of an American history course that utilized motion pictures as a primary source for the study of the society in which they were produced and consumed. Each year I selected a theme that could be explored for insight into the social and cultural history of the United States in a defined...


    • CHAPTER 1 Growing Up Concerned: Childhood, Family, and the Formation of a Value System, 1918–1939
      (pp. 3-20)

      Watching over the bustling resort community and mining town of Colorado Springs, the front range of the majestic Rocky Mountains provided the backdrop to where Clinton E. Jencks grew to maturity during the dark days of the Great Depression. The natural beauty of this environment, together with the dramatic story of its exploitation by first prospectors and then the mining industry, fired the imagination of a young man who as a child often explored the remnants of the mining boom and dreamed of the class struggle that could be dimly perceived in the history of the area. What Jencks learned...

    • CHAPTER 2 The World of Work and New Opportunities for Social Action: Living Faith, 1939–1945
      (pp. 21-32)

      Fully politicized by the time of his graduation from the University of Colorado, Clinton Jencks now pondered the next step on the road to radicalism. Having jettisoned any thought of a legal career, he looked for an occupational base for social action in the depths of the Great Depression, still searching for an opportunity that would sustain a determined effort to make a difference in the lives of working people and enrich their experiences by spreading God’s love. The religious impulse and the peace movement remained the primary driving forces in Jencks’s life and were the key motivating factors in...


    • CHAPTER 3 Coming Home: Veterans Advocacy and Renewed Political Commitment
      (pp. 35-44)

      For the restless Clinton Jencks, the ASARCO job provided a new lease on life. Although the work initially involved hard and dirty labor in a low-wage position, it connected him again to the world of social action through the union. Although he worried about the corrosive impact of the fumes that caused his clothes to disintegrate in a day’s time (he wondered what they were doing to his lungs), he was upbeat once more, his morale boosted by the camaraderie he found among workers in the mill. Virginia observed an immediate change in her husband, who suddenly appeared to have...

    • CHAPTER 4 Mine-Mill and Social Change: Economic Progress, Mexican American Activism, and Social Justice, 1945–1947
      (pp. 45-62)

      On his first day in Silver City, Clinton Jencks began searching for the residences of local union leaders, a simple task that quickly became complicated when he discovered that the officers’ homes were scattered over a three-hundred-square-mile area. What he observed in the process was a beautiful landscape scarred by the remnants of generations of exploitation. The rock dust, tailings, and slag dumps as well as the yawning open pits created a ghostly atmosphere as he contemplated the hard evidence of environmental degradation and inhaled the smell of money everywhere around him. When he looked down into the pits, he...


    • CHAPTER 5 Mobilizing for Mass Action: Social and Political Initiatives, 1948–1950
      (pp. 65-90)

      In early 1948, following a meeting of the corporate-controlled American Mining Congress, one company after another, including Kennecott, American Smelting and Refining, United States Refining and Mining, and the Phelps-Dodge Copper Corporation, took advantage of low copper, lead, and zinc prices to stall, delay grievance settlement, and “generally stonewall new contract negotiations” until Mine-Mill officers signed Taft-Hartley non-Communist affidavits. Infuriated by Kennecott’s dilatory tactics, Clinton Jencks, Arturo Flores, and B. G. Provencio scolded superintendent W. H. Goodrich of Chino Mines Division for “double talk” about protecting workers from those he called Reds, workers who were arguably the “men who built...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Moment of Decision: The Empire Zinc Strike, Grassroots Feminism, and Mexican American Liberation, 1950–1953
      (pp. 91-112)

      When the Empire Zinc strike began, Clinton Jencks was unaware of what the future held; indeed, the strikers had no idea that their action “would attract attention outside this corner of southwestern New Mexico.” On the fortieth anniversary of the event, Jencks recalled that the workers of Local 890 “only sought what [they] enthusiastically wanted for every other human being in our world, a larger share of the wealth [they] produce with [their] labor under working conditions that do not discriminate against any man or woman.” After a spontaneous walkout and subsequent negotiations, the company refused to consider the workers’...

    • CHAPTER 7 Telling the Story: Salt of the Earth as a Medium of Communication
      (pp. 113-130)

      In the midst of the Empire Zinc strike, Clinton Jencks’s union responsibilities were expanded beyond Grant County by the International. Now a portion of his duties included organizing in the even less hospitable environs of the Clifton-Morenci area in Arizona. Clifton was a community dominated by the omnipresent shadow of the giant Phelps-Dodge Corporation; the town was, in Virginia’s words, “company-company,” with “P-D stamped on the roofs, on the faces.” The race issue, she noted, was a problem to a “more bitter degree than we face in Silver.” She observed that because the Clifton Mine-Mill organization “was not a progressive...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)

    • CHAPTER 8 Confronting Domestic Anti-Communism: The Jencks Case, Civil Liberties, and the Law, 1953–1957
      (pp. 133-158)

      After relocating in Denver, Jencks immediately became engaged in the preparation of a national campaign from the International office designed to familiarize Mine-Mill members and the wider labor audience with the attack on the union and its leaders, with his case as the central feature of the effort. The opening shot in this battle was a three-page fact sheet titled “Defense of the Union against Jencks Taft-Hartley Indictment.” This memo reintroduced Jencks to union brothers nationwide, summarizing his work in Grant County and culminating with discussion of his prominent role in the Empire Zinc strike and the production of Salt...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Web of Consequences: Life after Mine-Mill
      (pp. 159-192)

      In Cold War America lingering anti-Communist hysteria died a slow death. Jencks believed that it served as a convenient cover for a well-established corporate offensive to erase the gains made by unions during the 1930s and 1940s; his conviction that corporate America had voided the New Deal social contract had been the key to his activism since 1947. His experiences after being cut loose from Mine-Mill only confirmed the worldview that had shaped his career as a social activist since his college years. Now, although he no longer had ties with the institutional party, he never gave up his commitment...

  10. EPILOGUE: A Reflection on the Committed Life
    (pp. 193-202)

    Clinton E. Jencks was many things to many people. And even to himself, he could be a puzzle, a man who struggled with compulsive behaviors that dogged him throughout his life, including problematic interaction with women and sometimes disruptive family relationships. These character issues complicated his already complex personal life, at least until he sought advice that enabled him to move beyond the psychological wounds he had sustained as a young man. Not the least of his burdens was the reality that he was essentially a modest man who necessarily lived with the dramatic story of his own life in...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 203-240)
    (pp. 241-254)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 255-266)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-275)