Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:33

lest We Forget

Lest we forget
Institutionalized racism in railroad unions on the Santa Fe Railroad 1953
Recently, while going through boxes of old railroad papers I've collected over the years I came across a Seniority Time Book for the Santa Fe Railroad's Albuquerque Division which ran from Belen to Winslow.
It is full of advertisements from businesses that railroaders patronized along the line and includes rosters of all conductors, brakemen, engineers, firemen, yard helpers/foremen and telegraphers. All the above employees are identified by name. All were union jobs.
And that's when I started to notice something odd in these lists of employees. There were no Hispanic or Native American names! Out of the nearly 2000 names listed, not one Hispanic! Not one Navajo! And this from the largest private employer in the state at the time.
The Santa Fe Railroad which capitalized greatly on Indian and Hispanic culture to promote itself didn't think it necessary to actually hire any in these well paying union jobs.
While this isn't news to anybody who has an inkling of knowledge about racial and gender history in America, it came as shock to me that in a state that was predominately Hispanic and Native American they weren't welcome in railroad unions. 
Not to say that they didn't work for the Santa Fe RR, but only as non-union shop and track laborers: the lowest paying, dirtiest and hardest jobs.
Many Hispanic New Mexicans gave their life for their country just 10 years earlier, only to be locked out of well paying jobs on their return by both the unions and the railroads.
Kinda makes you think. So much for the "good old days".
Published in Historical Documents

Additional information