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on April 8, 2014
I meet a lot of lawyers who work on social and economic justice issues but have never met one quite like Paul Henry Abram. Abram has written an extraordinary account of his experience representing the union members in ILWU local 35 who were on strike in Trona Ca in 1970. Most lawyers are more cautious (some would say conservative) than the activists they represent, but Abram gains the trust of the workers by being as militant as they are and willing to share the risks needed to win.

In the first couple of days after Abram arrives in Trona, he describes scenes that are neither conservative or nonviolent. The subtitle of the book is “A Revolution in Microcosm.” The strike against the Kerr-McGee plant in the Mohave Desert saw the workers and their legal counsel cutting electrical power to the plant, dynamiting communications systems, and “kidnaping” scab employees. I kept thinking, as I read these accounts, that it is good the statute of limitations has expired on these remarkable actions. The kidnaping charges, which Abram claims were all a big misunderstanding, were resolved in court - you will have to read the book to see what the judge and jury decided.

I loved the scene where the trial for some of the workers was about to begin and Mr. Tiny Fair, Constable of the Trona Justice Court and Head of Security for Kerr McGee was called to the stand and asked about his job of sending Jury Duty subpoena’s to registered voters. Mr. Fair said that he did not send jury duty notices to everyone, “what I do is I go through each of the names and I only have a subpoena made up and delivered to those persons that I know from experience will be fair.” What a priceless admission in open court!

The book takes you into the heart of what is probably the most violent labor action since the San Francisco General Strike in 1934. You are Abrams special guest on this wild ride when hundreds of workers stand up against this greedy union busting corporation. With the town sheriff, prosecutors and local judges in the hip pocket of the corporation, it is remarkable to witness the skill that Abram uses as he not only defends the workers in court but is instrumental in keeping morale up on the picket line and in the union hall.

When Abram himself is abducted by the lawless thugs that claim to represent law enforcement, it looked like his doom was near and that he would end up at the bottom of a mine shaft. Being thrown around in the back of a car going 120 miles an hour did not look good for the worker’s lawyer, but somehow this story did not end up getting written by Abram’s ghost.

Along the way you will run into some super stars on the left (like Angela Davis and Jane Fonda) that Abram worked with during this adventure. He also helped organize students, anti war, and environmental justice activists to help in the cause. The transformation of the students, workers, and women who struggled together in this labor dispute in Trona is as inspiring as it is moving. It is clear that Abram was moved by this experience and we are all richer for his sharing the experience with us.


Mike Rhodes is an independent journalist in Fresno California. He can be reached at
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on October 6, 2013
I was born in Trona. I grew up in Trona. I didn't go through this strike but my parents and brothers did. I knew many of the people mentioned in the book and went to school with them or their older siblings. I have maintained a web site about Trona for 20 years. If you have connections to Trona I would recommend this book. If you enjoy a good story I would recommend this book. If you were a hippie or your parents were hippies in the 70s I would recommend this book. If you are a delusional far right wing Repubiconed this book may be a little difficult for you to read. I sent this book to sons and to my brothers. My fear is that this book, even after 40 years, will open old wounds. I know it is going to take me a while to begin thinking of Trona the same way again. Don't get me wrong. Once I started reading I couldn't put this book down.
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on August 26, 2013
"Trona, Bloody Trona" is not a book for the faint of heart; it faithfully details the battles between three Unions and Corporate America with the attitudes, shenanigans, colorful language and excesses of the late `60's and early `70's fleshing out the story. Indeed, while the Union members won trials with the author's help, the war ultimately was won by Corporate America and thus began the dénouement of the labor movement in 20th Century America.

Mr. Abram (no s, please) is able to convey the importance of those days long ago in the middle of the California desert, and the people whose lives were forever changed by the events as told in the book. And he is not bashful in offering colorful personal opinions about the people and events he details in that book.

Abram is an enjoyable writer from the pure craft perspective; the information is not as enjoyable. To anyone who has a concern about the direction Corporate America is going, the book details some of its shabbier past. And there is an ugly irony when he tells of his personal experience with the NSA in a book which has been published during the time of the leaks of today's NSA excesses.
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on September 18, 2015
I was in high school in Trona during this time. But as a teenager I wasn't aware at the time of how long and hard the strike was. I was hoping the book would give me many interesting details of which I had not been aware. However, it was one long ego trip by the author. It was much more about him (not interesting in the least) than about Trona and the strike. The author was an L.A. lawyer who didn't know the town or the people of Trona. Very disappointing.
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on June 4, 2014
Speaking from experience, I can say that Its very tempting to become a corporate lawyer and so incredibly difficult be a labor lawyer. I know because I have been there. Fortunately for all of us, every now and then, a brilliant, brave and idealistic young lawyer comes along and is willing to take on the government as well as a corporate america. Paul Abram is such a lawyer. This book should be required reading for every first year law student.
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on October 31, 2013
This a story that unfolded in my own back yard. It was a bit difficult getting into, but once I had found an interesting spot it seemed to move along fairly well. Interesting history of unions in the local area.
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on October 6, 2013
I enjoyed the book not only because I live in Trona,but it was informative about the strike that happened before we moved here.But being a miner I have went on many a strikes at Sunshine Mining Co in Kellogg Idaho so I have first hand information how they can make or break a Union.
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on November 23, 2014
Very poorly edited for the kindle...entire passages skipped pages. While the strike subject matter was somewhat interesting, I wasn't sure whether I was reading an account of the Trona strike, or an autobiography of PH Abram, which wasn't altogether that interesting. I came away unconvinced that his point of view was correct.
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on May 28, 2014
Too much lawyer background info. Many of my family were involved in this strike and none of us recalls much of what Henry was talking about.
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on August 18, 2014
It was 44 years ago that courageous ILWU Local 35 members took on Kerr-McGee in the Mojave Desert, Trona, Bloody Trona is not the book that tells the story of that struggle.

As a retired ILWU member I ordered and read Los Angeles lawyer Paul Henry Abram's book, and it is much less about the strike than about his sex-, drug- and alcohol-addled ego and exploits and opinions. Lots of opinions. After all these years one should have, and impart, some sense of perspective, and that is missing.

Yes, the sabotage, bravado and violence make for juicy reading, but what of the hundreds of strikers' daily struggles to endure? Granted, Abram's book is a memoir, not a history, but he owes it to the workers who launched his labor law career to tell their story, not just his. And as a memoir, I doubt that he actually remembers those long and detailed conversations he recounts as fact.

To hear Abram tell it, Harry Bridges -- out of the blue -- came to Trona to "betray" the strikers and tell them to go back to work. I've been around enough to know that difficult decisions sometimes have to be made but also that there is a process to get to that point. And in the ILWU, it's usually been a democratic process.

As president of ILWU Local 6 during the Reagan Unionbusting 80s we had to face those situations more than once. When there were hard decisions recommended by the union officers and plant committee, my experience is that working women and men are thoughtful and intelligent in their decision-making, and sometimes voted the recommendation down. That process is missing here, leaving only the author's ego-driven sense of betrayal.

I do not speak as one who believes Bridges was never wrong; Harry's not on any pedestal in my house. But fair is fair, and Abram has had years to do the research and present a multifaceted, thoughtful review of those events. But that's not what he did.

The real book about the Trona strike, honoring those courageous workers who took on a murderous corporation, has yet to be written.
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