The 1912 Strike in Bingham Canyon

The 1912 Strike in Bingham Canyon, Utah was comprised almost entirely of immigrant workers, many of them Greek. Violence erupted on several occasions between guards and strikers.

In the early 1900s, Bingham Canyon was a congested, narrow canyon with homes, boardinghouses, and businesses (including 30 saloons) packed along the main street and up the steep hillsides, with mining operations literally in the backyards. The canyon was so overcrowded that Zack Tallas, a Greek fireman, stated that there were 3,000 Greeks (not included in the census) between the ages of 12 and 21 living in powder-box houses on mining company property. Most of the mine workers were immigrants from around the world. In the 1880s, most inhabitants were from Britain, Scandinavia, Italy, and Germany. In the 1900s, there was an influx of immigration from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, including Croatians, Slovenes, Serbs, Greeks, Armenians, and Italians. In 1910, workers from Japan and Korea were also brought in to work on the railroads (Papanikolas 1965, 1970). By 1912, the Greek population was in the majority, accounting for over one third of the immigrant population and outnumbering the next largest ethnic group, the Italians, by almost two to one (Papanikolas 1965, 1970, 1981).  

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Bingham, Utah 1910 (Western Mining History 2023a).

Within Bingham Canyon, each ethnic group had its own enclave where they lived and operated their own businesses. The Greeks had five bakeries, five candy stores, and ten coffeehouses. Some of the groups fought with each other and oftentimes amongst themselves. Killings were commonplace as were mining accidents that often resulted in death. The mining companies often sent spies among the various groups to keep tabs on the miners and report any rumors of or signs of labor unrest to mine officials (Papanikolas 1965, 1970).  

It was in this tense and difficult atmosphere, where the mining companies were the enemy and strangers were distrusted, that labor union organizers were trying to get a foothold. Not welcome by the mining companies, union organizers, known as Wobblies, Bolsheviks, and labor agitators, had to keep a low profile, for authorities were always on the lookout for agitators and more than happy to throw them in jail for sedition, or vagrancy if they could not be charged with sedition (Papanikolas 1965, 1970).  

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Upper Bingham 1916 (Western Mining History 2023b).

In 1912 the Utah Copper Company (UCC) had 5,000 workers, 4,000 of which were immigrants. Miner’s wages were $2 per day for surface men, $2.50 for muckers (diggers), and $3 for miners. The employees were struggling to survive on those wages. As representatives of the miners, the Western Federation of Miners (Federation) began asking for a 50-cent per day pay increase for all workers, better working conditions, and union recognition (Papanikolas 1965, 1970; Schirer 1994).  

In July of 1912, the Federation had a roster of 250 miners, not enough to exert any leverage against the mining companies in Bingham Canyon (Papanikolas 1965, 1970; Stone 2014). The Federation realized they needed the support of the Greeks, who at the time, were not interested in union matters and whose only goal was to earn enough money to leave the mines and return home to Greece (Papanikolas 1965, 1970). The Greeks, however, did have one major grievance that the Federation believed they could exploit. They wanted the elimination of the padrone system and its leading labor agent Leonidas G. Skliris, who lived in the lap of luxury from the toil of his Greek compatriots working in the mines. Skliris, known as the Czar of the Greeks, provided the mines (and other industries) with newly arrived Greek immigrants who would be charged $5 to $20 for providing them with employment. Following their hiring, Skliris would then bill the company a monthly fee of $1 to $2 for each of the employees that he had provided, a fee that would be deducted from the employee’s paycheck. He also threatened to have them fired if they did not do a certain amount of shopping at his Pan Hellenic Grocery Store (Papanikolas 1965, 1970, 1981; Stone 2014). To entice the Greeks into joining the union, the Federation promised to include the ousting of Skliris as their labor agent in their list of demands. The Greeks agreed to the proposal and by October of 1912, the Federation had 2,500 members (Papanikolas 1965, 1970, 1981; Stone 2014).  

On September 17, 1912, 1,000 immigrant workers (American-born workers mostly stayed away) met in the Bingham Theater and voted unanimously to go on strike. They were warned of the difficulties of walking off the job by Federation President Charles W. Moyer, who urged them to consider additional negotiations, but they chose to walk out (Papanikolas 1965, 1970; Stone 2014). Robert. C. Gemmell, UCC assistant general manager, refused to recognize the Federation and stated “I don’t think they [the miners] have any grievance. It is the officials of the miners’ union who have stirred up trouble” (Papanikolas 1970:124).  

Following this meeting, as many as 4,800 mine employees were now on strike, and many grabbed their guns and blankets and headed for the hills. The next day the town was closed and sharpshooters from the National Guard from Fort Douglas and 25 Salt Lake County deputy sheriffs with Winchester rifles were sent to Bingham. An estimated 800 immigrant workers were secreted away in the hills across from the UCC mine, and each time a railroad worker or sheriff attempted to enter the grounds, they were greeted with a hail of bullets (Papanikolas 1965, 1970; Stone 2014).  

By October of 1912, the strikers were still camped out across from the UCC and holding the railroad workers and sheriffs at bay. Rumors that the strikers on the hill had stolen 60 cases of dynamite from the Utah Construction tunnel discouraged deputies from making an assault on the hillside encampment. In the meantime, Austrian strikers had camped out near the Denver and Rio Grande trestle and were peppering those who tried to cross with lead (Papanikolas 1970).  

Bingham was in a state of crisis as it was rumored that immigrant miners had stocked-up on firearms in Salt Lake City and were bringing them into Bingham. Bingham saloons and gambling halls were closed, store owners were requiring cash only for all merchandise (including revolvers) and delivery trucks were no longer making their rounds around town. Druggists were encouraged to stop all liquor sales and deputies from the valley were arriving by trainload daily. All mines in Bingham Canyon were on strike, except for the Apex, and the Ohio Copper Company was the only mine willing to meet with the union officials (Papanikolas 1965, 1970).  

Utah Governor William Spry called for a peaceful settlement and ordered the strikers to come down out of the hills and leave the mines. Expecting compliance, Spry stationed himself at the Bingham Theater and prepared for negotiating with the strikers face-to-face. The strikers, however, defied the governor’s orders and remained on the hillside. Anxious for a peaceful solution to the strike, Greek Orthodox priest Vasillios Lambrides climbed the hill and spoke with the strikers and was successful in coaxing them off the hillside. Still armed, they headed for the Bingham Theater to meet with Governor Spry. Governor Spry was accompanied by Sheriff Joseph Sharp and 250 deputies who were wise enough not to ask the strikers to disarm. The meeting did not go well. The governor was uncommitted and spoke in platitudes, Gemmell sided with Skliris, and, in a telegram sent from San Francisco, UCC Vice-President Daniel C. Jackling denied that workers paid for their jobs. Outraged, the strikers stormed out of the theater to resume the strike (Papanikolas 1965, 1970; Stone 2014).  

The next day, the strikers were taking potshots at strikebreakers (individuals who were hired to replace the striking miners) coming into the mines on the Bingham and Garfield Railroad (Papanikolas 1965,1970). Rumors circulated that Skliris was hiring Greek strikebreakers and threatened that anyone who did not return to work immediately would be blackballed. The rumors drove the strikers back to the mountainside across from UCC. The Greeks were especially enraged by this event, as they felt they were being betrayed by their own countrymen. To add insult to injury, a slow-moving train of hopper cars traveled from Magna to Bingham with rifles strapped to the sides to make it appear as if the cars were loaded with armed men (Papanikolas 1970).  

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Ore train at Bingham mine ca. 1914 (Western Mining History 2023c).  

In town, things had gotten worse and the Americans, who had not sided with the immigrant strikers, were leaving Bingham by the trainloads. Shootings, theft, and drunkenness were rife, and some of the deputized citizens brought from Salt Lake were doing more damage than they were good. There was even an accidental shooting where one deputy shot another deputy (Papanikolas 1970).  

Throughout the strike, Skliris continued to deny operating a padrone system, and in fact stated that not one UCC employee provided by him had participated in the labor disputes occurring in Bingham Canyon. Skliris also denied forcing miners to shop at designated stores stating that he had no interest in any stores situated in Bingham Canyon. To bolster his denial, he offered $5,000 to anyone who could disprove his claims. His challenge was immediately answered by Ernest K. Pappas, who pointed to Skliris’ numerous advertisements in Greek newspapers throughout the United States, as well as Greece and the island of Crete, enticing Greek immigrants to Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and California, where he would provide them with work for a fee ranging from $5 to $20. In reference to Greek workers being forced to shop at the Pan Hellenic Grocery, Pappas stated that after interviewing numerous Greek inhabitants in Bingham Canyon, it could be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that L. G. Skliris’ representative, Steve G. Skliris, not only approved each of UCC new hires, but threatened them with dismissal if they did not shop at the Pan-Hellenic Grocery (Deseret Evening News [DEN], 23 September 1912:2). Skliris resigned his position as labor agent for UCC the next day (DEN, 23 September 1912:1). The $5,000 was not paid. The Greeks celebrated and were ready to go back to work, but Federation President Moyer urged them to stand firm with the union demands of more pay, better working conditions, and union recognition (Papanikolas 1970).  

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Leonidas Skliris, labor agent ca 1900-1912 (Marriott Library 2023a).

Despite the strikers’ vigilance, strikebreakers were sneaking into town. Five hundred were staying in passenger cars at Bingham and in boxcars at Magna railyards. On October 9 and 10, 1912, strikebreakers, under heavy guard, were brought into Bingham Canyon. It was expected that the numbers would reach 5,000 within a couple weeks and then the mines could run at full capacity. Fighting broke out between guards and strikers, and striker Mike Katrakis was shot in the leg, resulting in an amputation. Strikers retreated to the Acropolis Coffeehouse run by the Leventis brothers, as John Leventis was the acknowledged leader of the strikers. In support of the strikers, Garfield and Tooele smelter workers refused to process ore mined by the strikebreakers (Papanikolas 1965, 1970).  

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John Leventis, leader of the 1912 Strikers at Bingham Canyon, 1912 (Marriott Library 2023b).

On October 25, 1912, a confrontation in Galena Gulch between strikers, strikebreakers and deputies resulted in five wounded, one of which, Harris Spinbon, died two weeks later. The next day the Leventis brothers, Steve and John, were arrested for their suspected involvement in the riot. By this time the miners were in dire straits, having been out of work for six weeks. The Western Federation brotherhood from Butte, Montana sent the strikers $7,000 in relief money (Papanikolas 1965, 1970).  

On October 31, 1912, UCC offered a 25-cent per day raise, a raise that would go into effect in November 1912. The offer was rejected, and the stand-off continued. Strikers hoped that UCC would realize that the strikebreakers lacked the skill, physicality, and discipline required for mine work. Unfortunately for the miners, UCC failed to capitulate, and the strike dragged on (Papanikolas 1965, 1970).

On November 4, 1912, law enforcement officers took 40 Greeks into custody at the Acropolis Coffeehouse. A week later, a fight erupted at the Acropolis when three Greeks, including George Padaladonis (Papandonis), were shot by deputies attempting to arrest Zaharias Rasiaskis. George Papandonis died two days later. Two Federation officials were also arrested when they attempted to prevent the arrest of Rasiaskis (Papanikolas 1965, 1970).  

By mid-November of 1912, the strikers realized that UCC was not going to yield, and the workers gradually began returning to work. It is unlikely that a formal contact between the workers and UCC existed since UCC refused to recognize the Federation; however, muckers and miners were given a 25-cents per day raise and surface men were given 20-cents (Papanikolas 1965, 1970). By November 28, 1912, Jackling declared the strike was over and that 1,500 men had returned to work and that he expected the rest to quickly follow (Salt Lake Herald-Republican [SLHR], 28 November 1912:8).  

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Miner’s Union Day, Bingham, Utah 1912 (Schirer 1994).

Although the strikers did not get the full raise they asked for, one of the most important results of the strike was the exposure of the padrone system, the existence of which companies could no longer deny. The hiring of Greek strikebreakers had a devastating effect on Utah’s Greek community. The strikers were from the island of Crete, whereas the strikebreakers were from the mainland and other parts of Greece. Crete had been long occupied by the Turks, and freedom from their occupation was a fairly recent event. Although reunification with Greece was longed for, a schism had developed between the Greeks and Cretans. The strike exacerbated this rift, business partnerships between the two groups dissolved, and marriages between couples of different groups often resulted in feuds. In Carbon County, several attempted killings occurred due to these mixed marriages. The strike also affected businesses and transportation countywide as it took five months for the mines and mills to return to full production. The Federation remained unrecognized (Papanikolas 1965, 1970).  


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The Evening Telegram, 18 September 1912, page 1.

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The Salt Lake Herald-Republican, 19 September 1912, page 1.  

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Salt Lake Herald-Republican, 20 September 1912, page 1.  
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Salt Lake Herald-Republican, 20 September 1912, page 2.



Logan Simpson


Deseret Evening News (DEN)

 1912 Skirlis Returns and Issues Statement; Reply to Skliris Accepts Challenge. 23 September:2. Salt Lake City, Utah.

 1912 Skliris’ Resignation will Not End Strike. 23 September:1. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Papanikolas, Helen Zeese

 1965 Life and Labor Among the Immigrants of Bingham Canyon. Utah Historical Quarterly, 33(4):289–315.

 1970 The Great Bingham Strike of 1912 and Expulsion of the Padrone. Utah Historical Quarterly, 38(2):122–133.

 1981 The Exiled Greeks. In The Peoples of Utah, edited by Helen Z. Papanikolas, pp.409–436. Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah

Marriott Library

2023a Leonidas Skliris, Leading Labor Agent of the West and Midwest (cropped). P0121 Greek Archives Photograph Collection. J. Willard Marriot Digital Library, University of Utah, electronic document P0121 Greek Archives Photograph Collection. J. Willard Marriot Digital Library, University of Utah, electronic document, accessed June 22, 2023.  

 2023b Formal Portrait of Three Greek Men. Right is John Leventis, the Leader of    Greek Strikers in the Bingham (mine?) Strike of 1912. In the Center is Joseph Coucourakis, 1912. P0121 Greek Archives Photograph Collection. J. Willard Marriot Digital Library, University of Utah, electronic document, accessed June 21, 2023.  

Salt Lake Herald-Republican, The (SLHR)

 1912 Utah Copper Now Producing Usual Output of Metal. 28 November:8. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Schirer, David L.

 1994 The Western Federation of Miners. Utah History Encyclopedia. Electronic document Utah History Encyclopedia (, accessed June 22, 2023.

Stone, Eileen Hallet

 2014 Living History: In 1912, Unions and Strikes Were Part of Life in Bingham Canyon. The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah. Electronic document Living history: In 1912, unions and strikes were part of life in Bingham Canyon - The Salt Lake Tribune ( accessed May 12, 2023.

Western Mining History

 2023a Bingham, Utah 1910. Bingham, Utah. Western Mining History. Electronic document Bingham Utah – Western Mining History, accessed June 23, 2023.

 2023b Upper Bingham 1916. Bingham, Utah. Western Mining History. Electronic document Bingham Utah – Western Mining History, accessed June 23, 2023.

2023c Train Hauls Ore at the Bingham Mine ca 1914. Bingham, Utah. Western Mining History. Electronic document Bingham Utah – Western Mining History, accessed June 23, 2023.