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Front Page » May 10, 2011 » Carbon County News » 1949: Labor strife dominates news
Published 1,260 days ago

1949: Labor strife dominates news


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.

While the beginning of 1949 was punctuated by a murder trial, the second half of the year was marked by labor disturbances, many of which were related to the first part of the year.

Generally the coal in industry was in a funk and a lot of men were cut back to part time mining. Labor leaders found that, in their estimation, companies were not honoring their contracts, so periodic and sometimes frequent work stoppages were happening not only in various mines but also in the industry as a whole.

While the lurch and surge of coal supplies dragged down the industry, things came to a head in the fall when violence began to appear on the sporadic picket lines that had been set up over labor troubles. A general walkout began in September. It started in Wyoming and Utah and eventually idled 480,000 miners across the country.

The walkout was termed "voluntary" because it was not ordered by labor leaders, according to the Sun Advocate on Sept. 19. "No contract, no work" was added, with many also saying "No pension, no work" as well.

Locally some non-union mines continued to operate.

Reports of violence on the picket lines, however, soon drew the attention of Governor J. Bracken Lee, who sent the superintendent of the Utah Highway Patrol, Joe Dudler, former Carbon County Sheriff out to investigate. On. Sept. 29 the Sun Advocate reported that Dudler said many of the reports of violence occurring were "exaggerated."

The reports had come from Emery County Sheriff Bryant Nelson who said at one point some picketers had tried to tip his car over until he showed them his badge.

"A number of strikers were intoxicated and a number of trucks and cars were run off the highways," the sheriff had reported to the governor. "One was tipped over."

But picketers denied the violence or that they had even tried to tip over the sheriff's car, when interviewed by the paper.

The disruption in work would go on for some time, stretching well into 1950, with labor disruptions constantly at hand.

In December, a particularly violent car truck crash between two miners driving home from a night shift and a truck driver, all of whom were from Cleveland, killed the two coming home from work. Charles Mortensen was driving into the morning sun, and apparently crossed the line and couldn't see the truck that was westbound on the Huntington Canyon highway. The collision was a head-on that turned both vehicles over. The driver of the truck got out of the wreckage, but collapsed at the side of the road. The photo that appeared in the Sun Advocate of the dismantled car was actually the first real accident photo ever printed in the paper and it won first place in the news photo division of the Utah Press Association photography contest that year. It also garnered some runner up national attention for a news photo.

With all the grief, however, sometimes funny stories emerge from a year with so much serious news. That happened when Rudolph Tippets of Hiawatha decided he needed a ride home so he took a car from in front of the Price post office about 1:30 a.m. just before Christmas. He took the car while the person who was driving it was inside getting some mail. That person turned out to be Price Police Chief William Lines, who watched the tail lights of his car drive into dark south on Carbon Avenue.

Lines immediately called the department and somehow, someway, two Price officers just happened to be near the Hiawatha Junction at the time and intercepted the vehicle.

"In the absence of cash (bail was $150 but he didn't have it, so he was spending 30 days in jail) Mr. Tippetts is carrying out the alternative (jail) and is probably brooding during this season of good cheer, over his uncanny choice of vehicles to appropriate," stated the paper in its next-to-last issue of the year.

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