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Labor Day: Butte still has a strong connection with labor

Posted at 3:38 PM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-06 17:38:35-04

BUTTE - From the early days of underground mining to haul trucks of open pit mining today, Butte continues to have a strong connection with labor.

“One thing about mining, it’s like a military operation it takes all types of facets: it took logging, it took timber, it took electricians, it took carpenters, it’s just took a variety of workers. And they all recognized that they need to stick together for their benefit,” said Jim Keane, a former state Legislator and underground miner.

In the early part of the 20th Century, Butte miners become some of the first to unionize, demanding better wages and safer working conditions.

“When we said, ‘we’re all sticking together and we’re all in this together,’ that made a big difference. You know, it benefited country, because you had the rise of the middle class because of labor,” said Keane.

While underground mining stopped in Butte by the 80s, Montana Resources continues open-pit mining today and has been seeing high copper prices since beginning of the year.

“It’s demand for copper, it’s the demand for green energy, it’s the demand for electric cars. All of those things will drive the price of copper, which, being a copper miner, we’re happy about,” said Montana Resources Vice President of Public Relations Mike McGivern.

The company expects a mine life of more than 30 years and currently has 382 employees. “We are at the highest labor employment at Montana Resources in the history since 1986,” said McGivern.

The Granite Montana Memorial is a solemn reminder of the cost Butte paid in human life to keep industry going and Labor Day will hopefully teach us safety standards and we’ll learn from that history.

“You have to give a lot of credit to Montana Resources for is they have one of the best safety programs, I think, in the country. And that saves the company a ton of money and it’s good for the workers because they’re working in a lot better and safer conditions,” said Keane.