Clifton, Arizona


Downtown Clifton
In downtown Clifton today

Located on the San Francisco River in eastern Arizona, Clifton is one of the oldest settlements in the state. While Clifton was probably located here because of the natural hot springs, no one at the time knew the huge Morenci copper ore body was close by. That ore body led to the establishment of the company town of Morenci (Phelps Dodge Corporation), which was eventually swallowed by the open pit mine that is now 3 miles long and 2 miles wide. So then New Morenci was built, right up a steep and winding road above Clifton. No one knows if New Morenci will survive or eventually also be swallowed by that huge open pit. But Clifton has long been the town next door, the non-union, non-company town where folks go for their "entertainment."

There was a strike at the Phelps Dodge copper mines that started on July 30, 1983. The State of Arizona and the Federal Government got involved, on Phelps Dodge' side, of course. Miners who manned the picket lines were subject to unlawful arrests, firings and evictions from company housing. At the same time, the Arizona State Criminal Intelligence Systems Agency (ACISA) was conducting undercover surveillance everywhere in the area, using a mix of informants, wiretaps and "bugs." Apparently the union was dealing with several weapons dealers and the Arizona Department of Public Safety was trying to set up a sting operation, but they botched the whole thing when an officer "accidentally" shot one of the suspects, critically wounding him. At the same time, Phelps Dodge was busy smuggling weapons into the mine and to their security people with impunity.

On the morning of August 19, 1983, military tanks, vehicles and helicopters arrived at the gates of the Morenci mine accompanied by 325 Arizona National Guard troops and 426 Arizona State Troopers. They were there to ensure that the permanent, non-union replacement workers hired to work at Morenci would be able to go to work. Within days the power of the union was broken. The strike officially ended on February 19, 1986 when the National Labor Relations Board rejected the final appeals from the union in regards to their decertification. Since that time, more than half the population of Clifton has left and most of the businesses have been shuttered.

In doing research for this page, I came across an article in Tucson Weekly from June 29, 1995, where Frank Navarette, then Director of ACISA makes the statement: "What happened during the strike doesn't fall within the definition of organized crime, but from my perspective, it's organized labor."

The population of Clifton is up almost 33% since 2000.

Clifton, Arizona
Clifton from New Morenci
Fast Facts about Clifton, Arizona
Clifton, Greenlee County, AZ 85533
Latitude: 33.0405°N
Longitude: 109.3009°W
Incorporated: 1909
Elevation: 3,478'

Education:
High School or Higher: 80.5%
Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 9.2%
Graduate or Professional Degree: 4.2%
Cost of Living Index for Clifton: 77.5

2014 Estimates:
Median Household Income: $48,200
Median Home Value: $46,500
Median Resident Age: 30.0 Years
Major Industries:
Mining, Educational Services, Construction, Lodging & Food Services, Health Care, Retail Services, Government, Waste Management Services, Social Services
Unemployed (August 2014): 6.2%
 
2010 Population Demographics
Total Population
3,311
Males
1,697
Females
1,614
Population by Age
Under 18
1,056
18 & over
2,255
20-24
236
25-34
522
35-49
627
50-64
468
65 & over
314
Population by Ethnicity
Hispanic or Latino
1,991
Non Hispanic or Latino
1,320
Population by Race
White
2,342
African-American
28
Asian
23
Native American
109
Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
3
Other
635
Two or more
171
 
Greenlee County Pages