Summary of Interview
His Name is Gilbert Limon “Wally” he was born in El Paso, Texas on August 29, 1957, he grew up in Canutillo that used to be a small town at the exit of El Paso, he graduated from high school in 1976 and then he started working at ASARCO when he was 19 years old from 1977-1999. He was amazed when he first started working there because there were a lot of people working there and, they will work like 40-60 hours a week. He first started as a minimum wage employee with 7 dollars an hour and then they will be raised 30 cents more every time he changes position on the plant. His first job in the plant was at the land department where he was an operator and he was moved to the cooper department where he pulled out the slag from the mountain as well as a tapper and they worked at the river pulling out matte that is a non-pure cooper. He says that he had a lot of different experiences working there as well as a lot of knowledge that he gained working there in different positions. He was that before they closed the plant there were around 1500 workers but after they closed the number of employees reduces to 400. While he was working in the plant, he got a job inside the plant melting the metals, and the temperature was around 2300 degrees, “it was like working with lava “he said. He says that the safety measurements, in the 70s, at the plant weren’t good but not good enough to protect the workers from all of the chemicals that they used in that plant, they had safety measure for the dust but not for the gases that could potentially intoxicate their employees. The safety measurements changed in the 80s because now they had masks or how they called respirators with a respirator that helped them to breathe. The masks or respirators continued to update while he was working there until they had a mask that can protect you from gases, chemicals, and dust. Working in there he experienced 4 accidents in which the 4 of them were deaths, one of them died on the roasters and in that site of the plant the heath could kill you immediately when someone died they closed that departments for 1 or 2 days in order to clean, the employee who died in there he died crushed by a machine and from the other 3 accidents he wasn’t there but he heard about them. He says that the supervisors were good, but he cannot complain, because he had no problem at all with him and he says that only some of the supervisors care about the safety of the workers. He was part of the union where they could get 2-3 days off thanks to that union, but he didn’t really use that union but there were people that used a lot. When he worked in ASARCO all the employees had insurance for accidents and it covered 100% of the expenses and they received 2 checks per week and he could not complain because it was a good job. He retired with a pension, that he says that the retirement could be at the ages from 55-65 that was depending on each person's decisions. He says that when he was working on a site that produces chemical gases he will need to go out in order to take a breath because there were no masks or respirator but once they had those respirators it was easier to breathe, and there were sites where it was almost impossible to have that respirator because the temperatures were so high that it could burn your face and it makes it extremely hard to breathe, but he couldn’t complain because he had a family and they pay him really good so he couldn’t quit. When he first started working in ASARCO they didn’t provide any type of protective equipment such as jackets, pants, gloves, mask, etc. so they needed to take their own equipment but at the time of getting into their home to wash the equipment is was all contaminated from the chemicals that the plant was using at the plant they only provide them with showers but not washer machines to clean their clothes before going into their homes. He says that you needed to get used to it because ASARCO was your second home because you could be from 8-16 hours a day because if your partner didn’t show up you needed to stay 2 shift instead of 1, if you showed up to your regular shift there was no problem if you worked for 3 shifts or the 24 hours of the day. The longest he would stay on the plant was 32 hours in order to get some rest and get the next day to work. Their family didn’t have any problem if he stays 32 hours working on the plant. He says that he does not know much about the cemetery called Calavera because he was from another part of the city, but he knows that they buried people that lived on that side of the city. He says that overall he thinks that the future generations wouldn’t work in there because it was an extremely hard job and it could have many risks, and the chemicals could kill you and the plant produced a lot of contamination as well as dangerous gases and chemicals that still can be at El Paso soil. He says that the workers were Mexicans the majority and there were Americans and Afro-American people working in there as well and almost everyone spoke Spanish. He also shares the schedule they had at their shifts at the plant and they were from 7 am to 3 pm, 3 pm to 11 pm and 11 pm to 7 am, the full 24 hours the plant was working including Christmas and new year. He has a health issue related to the years he worked there, he has a condition called COPD which means that his lungs are full of smoke due to the exposure he had to the plant and he also needs surgery on one of his arms due to all of the manual work that they did in ASARCO.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Interview with Gilbert LImon by Alejandro Garcia, 2019, "Interview no. 1719," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.