Raised on a farm near Bemidji but attracted to the high wages of Iron Range miners, Warwas joined his older brothers and went to work in the mines in 1965. Of the six Warwas boys, five worked in Iron Range mines.
Warwas was hired in May 1965 as a laborer at $2.28 per hour, but within a few weeks was driving trucks at $2.93 per hour.
“Big wages,” Warwas said. The federal minimum wage in 1965 was $1.25.
More than half a century later, the Bemidji native can take satisfaction in a job well done and passing on his skill set to the next generation of miners
At a retirement party for Phil in Keewatin’s Bernie’s Main Dry, Phil’s brother Lyle Warwas, 85, said he’s watched his brother grow up as a good, honest worker.
“I’m actually quite proud of my brother,” said Lyle.
Brian Haupt, a fellow Keetac machinist agreed.
“He’d give his right arm for everyone,” Haupt said.
It’s long past time to give the next generation of Minnesotans a shot at the high-paying jobs and benefits the mining industry provides. American Experiment’s new report, Unearthing Prosperity: How Environmentally Responsible Mining Will Boost Minnesota’s Economy, estimates development of the state’s mineral resources will pump $3.7 billion into our state economy each year and provide 8,500 jobs. That kind of opportunity might just make Phil Werwas think twice about retirement.