miners union


2012 - Spanish miners in the northwestern Spanish provinces of Asturias and Leon, armed with homemade rockets and slingshots,battled police for months in protest against government cuts and austerity. The cuts threatened the main source of income for much of the region with no plans to replace the lost jobs, while destroying the social safety net.

From this short documentary on the Spanish Miners Revolt: [video]


2012 - Spanish miners in the northwestern Spanish provinces of Asturias and Leon, armed with homemade rockets and slingshots,battled police for months in protest against government cuts and austerity. The cuts threatened the main source of income for much of the region with no plans to replace the lost jobs, while destroying the social safety net. 

From this short documentary on the Spanish Miners Revolt: [video]

also, related to cornfield gothic; appalacian gothic aesthetic, because son there is some shit in those hills

  • tall mountains and deep valleys, forests with thick dense green trees and quiet, sly shadows.  you see them on the trail sometimes and when you look, they’re gone.
  • the land is pockmarked with mineshafts.  some smell like fire and some like blood and all of them are guarded by the ghosts of union miners.  they ask you, aggressively, if you’re a fucking company strikebreaker every time you walk past. 
  • (if they don’t believe you when you say no, they’ll kill you.) 
  • mrs. cooper’s moonshine could knock an elephant on its ass.  you drink and you taste the stars, you taste the coal, you taste oil, you taste your own terror. 
  • your family has always lived in this holler.  your father was born here.  your grandfather.  your grandfather’s grandfather.  you knit new blankets every christmas and use them to cover their bones.  
  • there are some people who pray to jesus and some who pray to satan.  you are most afraid of the ones who pray to the small gods in the coal mines. the gods of black lung and cancer, the gods of mine collapses and company stores, bleeding every last dime from your pockets. they are greedy gods, and hungry ones.  
  • outsiders will ask you what bluegrass is.  you do not know if they are asking about the music or the grass; both are bloody, and both belong to some wordless thing you can only sing to.  
  • your neighbors leave their christmas lights on through july.  this is not because they are lazy; this is because they are afraid, and fifteen hours of darkness is a long time to be without protection.  
  • your brother works in a coal mine.  your brother has always worked in a coal mine.  he brings it home with him.  his eyes are black now.  your mother won’t let him in the house.
  • sometimes the mountains stir.  your father blames it on that newfangled fracking business.  your neighbors pretend it doesn’t happen.  your grandmother says the mountains are angry. you fill your pockets with coal and fall asleep listening to them sing to each other, and you try and think of a way out. 

The Battle of Blair Mountain

 Around the turn of the century in West Virginia, the coal companies controlled everything. They owned the towns, had their own private militias, and even paid local law enforcement officers and politicians.  However, the coal companies control over the state began to wane when the miners started to unionize. One of the last counties to unionize was Logan Country, located in the southwest of the state. In 1920, agents of the Baldwin Felts Detective Agency arrived in the independent town of Matewan to evict several miners families and arrest the local police chief, Sid Hatfield.  Hired by the coal companies, the men were essentially there to strong arm the town, which was staunchly pro-union. Days before, the coal companies had tried to bribe the local mayor into placing 5 machine guns on the roofs of the town buildings "in order to maintain order" among the coal miners.  The agents threw out several families from their homes at gunpoint.  They were met by Chief Hatfield and his deputies, who told them to get out of town.  A gunfight ensued, resulting in the deaths of ten men, 7 of which were Baldwin Felts agents, including two of the brothers of the company’s founder, Albert and Lee Felts. The town mayor, Cabell Testerman, was also killed.

Police Chief Sid Hatfield

Sid Hatfield was cleared of murder charges, which was seen as a great victory against the coal companies.  Bolstered by the victory, Sid Hatfield and a union organizer named Bill Blizzard organized the miners of Logan County into a union, which quickly went on strike.  The coal companies responded by hiring scabs and strike breakers.  On August 1st, 1921 Sid Hatfield was called to McDowell County to stand trial for sabotaging a mine. While walking up the courthouse steps with his friend Ed Chambers and their wives,  a group of Baldwin Felts agents opened fire, killing Hatfield and Chambers.  Chambers, who was only wounded, was executed by one of the agents with a gunshot to the back of the head.

 Enraged, the miners took up arms and organized to forcefully break the power of the coal companies. They were joined by thousands of miners from other counties who were sympathetic to their cause.  Altogether, the miners formed an army consisting of around 10,000 men.  Its is no exaggeration that they were an army, many of the miners were World War I veterans who had seen combat in Europe.  Armed with hunting rifles and shotguns, they organized battalions and regiments, assigned commanders, set up command posts, set up hospitals and mess tents, dug trenches, and did everything that a well organized army would do. Their opposition, a eclectic group of coal company militias, guards, state and local police, and Baldwin Felts agents, only numbered around 3,500, however they were well armed with machine guns and other military weapons.

On August 25th, the two sides met, and a battle raged in the West Virginia mountains for almost a week.  In the ensuing battle, 50-100 miners were killed, around 30 men on the side of the coal companies were killed.  Hundreds more were wounded on both sides.  The battle ended when Federal troops arrived on September 2nd.  985 miners were indicted for treason and murder, but in the end none were charged.  Overall the battle was a victory for the coal companies in the short term, who clamped down even harder on the miners.  In the long term, the battle was a victory for the miners, as the battle rose awareness of the coal miners plight.

Some of the architecture seen in Castle in the Sky was inspired by a Welsh mining town. Miyazaki first visited Wales in 1984 and witnessed the miners’ strike firsthand. He returned to the country in 1986 to prepare for Laputa, which he said reflected his Welsh experience: “I was in Wales just after the miners’ strike. I really admired the way the miners’ unions fought to the very end for their jobs and communities, and I wanted to reflect the strength of those communities in my film." Miyazaki told The Guardian, "I admired those men, I admired the way they battled to save their way of life, just as the coal miners in Japan did. Many people of my generation see the miners as a symbol; a dying breed of fighting men. Now they are gone.”

Today in labor history, June 11, 1925: Cape Breton coal miner William Davis is killed by armed company police when he and other residents of New Waterford march to demand that utilities be restored after the mining company cut off the water and electric supply during a long and bitter strike. June 11 is commemorated throughout Nova Scotia as Miners’ Memorial Day.

No union mines left in Kentucky, where labor wars once raged
Retired union leaders worry the history of deadly gun battles will be forgotten and conditions will deteriorate.
By Dylan Lovan, Associated Press

HARLAN, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coal miners bled and died to unionize.

Their workplaces became war zones, and gun battles once punctuated union protests. In past decades, organizers have been beaten, stabbed and shot while seeking better pay and safer conditions deep underground.

But more recently the United Mine Workers in Kentucky have been in retreat, dwindling like the black seams of coal in the Appalachian mountains.

And now the last union mine in Kentucky has been shut down.

“A lot of people right now who don’t know what the (union) stands for is getting good wages and benefits because of the sacrifice that we made,” said Kenny Johnson, a retired union miner who was arrested during the Brookside strike in Harlan County in the 1970s. “Because when we went on those long strikes, it wasn’t because we wanted to be out of work.”

Hard-fought gains are taken for granted by younger workers who earn high wages now, leading the coal industry to argue that the union ultimately rendered itself obsolete. But union leaders and retirees counter that anti-union operators, tightening environmental regulations and a turbulent coal market hastened the union’s demise in Kentucky.

The union era’s death knell sounded in Kentucky on New Year’s Eve, when Patriot Coal announced the closing of its Highland Mine. The underground mine in western Kentucky employed about 400 hourly workers represented by the United Mine Workers of America.

For the first time in about a century, in the state that was home to the gun battles of “Bloody Harlan,” not a single working miner belongs to a union. That has left a bad taste in the mouths of retirees: men like Charles Dixon, who heard the sputter of machine gun fire and bullets piercing his trailer in Pike County during a long strike with the A.T. Massey Coal Company in 1984 and 1985.

“I had my house shot up during that strike,” said Dixon, the United Mine Workers local president at the time. “I was just laying in bed and next thing you know you hear a big AR-15 unloading on it. Coal miners had it tough buddy, they sure have.”