Community in Conflict

Community in Conflict: A Working-class History of the 1913-1914 Michigan Copper Strike and Italian Hall Tragedy, by Aaron Goings and Gary Kaunonen

A mirror of great changes that were occurring on the national labor rights scene, the 1913-1914 Michigan Copper Strike was a time of unprecedented social upheaval in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. With organized labor taking an aggressive stance against the excesses of unfettered capital, the stage was set for a major struggle between labor and management. The Michigan Copper Strike received national attention and garnered the support of luminaries in organized labor like Mother Jones, John Mitchell, Clarence Darrow, and Charles Moyer. The hope of victory was overshadowed, however, by violent incidents like the shooting of striking workers and their family members; and the bitterness of a community divided. No other event came to symbolize or memorialize the Strike than the Italian Hall Tragedy, in which dozens of workers and working-class children died. In Community and Conflict, the efforts of working people to gain a voice on the job and in their community through their union, and the efforts of employers to crush those unions, take center stage. Previously untapped historical sources such as labor spy reports, union newspapers, coded messages, and artifacts shine new light on this epic, and ultimately tragic, period in American labor history.

Responses to Community in Conflict

In Community in Conflict, Goings and Kaunonen have truly created a working-class history of the 1913-1914 Michigan Copper Strike, presenting valuable new information and perspectives which enrich our understanding of the strike from the bottom up. They have served up an essential antidote to the majority of earlier histories which treated the strike as a temporary aberration in an otherwise idyllic mining region and the strikers and their larger working class community as faceless, one-dimensional economic actors. This history is especially rich in placing Italian Hall, before and after the Christmas Eve tragedy, into its broader significance to workers, managers and the wider Copper Country region.

- John P. Beck, Associate Professor, Labor Education Program, and Co-Director, Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives, Michigan State University