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Front Page » October 20, 2011 » Carbon County News » 1978: Strike ends, effects linger
Published 1,064 days ago

1978: Strike ends, effects linger


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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. The article is being written from front page stories that appeared during each year in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.

A police chase of a pickup truck in January started off the year with a bang, particularly when the truck went through the wall of the Helper Barber Shop on Jan. 7. The chase started when the truck nearly hit a Helper police car on Main Street and the Helper officer gave chase. The truck turned into a parking lot covered with ice and it slid right through the wall of the shop. The driver was arrested for DUI after the accident. Not only did the truck do major damage to the wall of the shop, but almost all the barber equipment inside the shop was destroyed.

As the coal strike that started in late 1977 wore on, families in the area began to come under great financial stress. It was proposed early in the year that the state send aid from the Division of Social Services to help those families, but by late January that aid had been denied by the governor based on an opinion from the Utah State Attorney General.

At the time it was estimated that 1,200 families would need aid if the strike went on through February. Medical bills for families also became a problem because while the miners were on strike the health insurance benefits were suspended. An $85,000 bill piled up at the Carbon County Hospital for workers and their families by the end of January.

The union was attempting to help pay that bill off, but as the strike extended people came in as medical help was needed. In early March a proposed settlement was rejected by members of the union and the Sun Advocate said they stated they would stay out "as long as it takes." A federal injunction had been issued to tell the men to return to work at the mines if the settlement was not

adopted, but despite pleas from the union for workers to obey the order, most refused.

In mid-March another agreement was put together and local leaders flew to Washington D.C. to examine it before it went to the rank and file. About that same time some sparse pickets began to show up at non-union mines again (they had been mostly discontinued since the first of the year). Accompanying those pickets came another bridge fire under the road leading up to Soldier Creek Mine, but it was quickly extinguished. The federal injunction was also being criticized as the union ran radio spots on local radio saying that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution said that slavery was not legal, and when you force someone to work against their will that is exactly what slavery is.

Finally, in late March the rank and file members approved a new contract by a very slim margin (744-712) and work at the mines began again. But the 110 day strike had taken a bad toll on the miners and on the economy of the area, as many of the miner had gotten behind on bills and mortgages. Some predicted the financial effects of the strike would last more than six months.

The terrible drought of the 1976 and 1977 seemed to ease a bit in 1978. By February the area's mountains and even the valleys had twice as much snow as normal, and people began to plan gardens and agriculture began to give a big sigh of relief. In fact by mid February there was so much more snow falling that now the amount of moisture was beginning to cause problems including a collapsed roof on Helper's Main Street. A three day storm and piled up two feet in the area.

Pilfering of parts and outright car theft continued to plague area car dealerships in the area that winter. One of the biggest thefts came when a brand new Pinto was stolen from John Argetis Ford driven up Nine Mile Canyon and then lit on fire where it was found the next day gutted. Because of the all the vandalism that had been going on some of the dealers totally fenced their lots so no one could get in. The continual loss of auto accessories and damage led to a real change in how businesses had to work at the time.

A man led police on a high speed chase after a shooting spree in late February. The reports began when witnesses told of a man who shot at a couple in downtown Price while they were walking down the street. Just as officers arrived there they got a report from the Husky Station east of Price that someone had fired shots there. Upon arrival at the station they found bullet holes in the building and in an ice machine. They decided the suspect had driven east and headed that way when they got a call that a man had forced his way into a house near Soldier Creek Road.

They notified East Carbon Police who spotted the car headed south on Highway 6 at a high rate of speed. The pursuit of the car lasted for four miles at nearly 110 mph at which point the suspect turned around and almost hit one of the police cars head on. The suspect vehicle then headed up Horse Canyon Road with one police car in pursuit.

While in pursuit it appeared the man in the car was firing at the pursuing officer because he saw gun flashes from the vehicle. Finally the car broke down up the canyon and officers were able to get the man to put down his gun and arrest him. After his arrest and subsequent trip back to Price, the man said he didn't remember anything about the incident up to the time he had a blood draw for driving under the influence.

In April, Carbon County Sheriff Albert Passic announced he would not run for sheriff again, after spending 33 years working in the department. He had begun working as a lawman in 1945 and began work as sheriff in 1955. At the time of his retirement the Sun Advocate reported that "Carbon County now shows one of the lowest crime rates in the state, but also has one of the highest rates of conviction for crimes of violence and theft."

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