Massey Comes to Power

To celebrate the DVD reissue of the 1986 film The Mine War on Blackberry Creek, Appalshop is streaming the documentary in its entirety (28 minutes) on the web for free.  In 1984, Massey began a push to break the union along the West Virginia and Kentucky border. But union miners refused to give away their high wages, pensions, benefits, and independence without a struggle.  Compelled by the blood their ancestors spilled to give them their rights, and in solidarity with South Africans working in slave conditions in Massey mines across the globe, union miners struggled intensely for two and a half years against company goons, amoral scabs, and a state police force which might as well have been on king coal’s payroll.

We all know the unfortunate ending to this story. As Walmart’s anti-union campaign had a snowball effect in the grocery/retail industry,  Massey’s union busting forced other company’s to break their unions to stay competitive.  When the union was thriving, this area of WV was modestly prosperous. But thanks to Massey, the money that stayed in the form of high wages and pensions was slurped out of the area and into the pockets of New York stockholders. For his part in the union busting, Don Blankenship was eventually rewarded with the position of CEO and now rakes in about $1,000 an hour.  Meanwhile, Massey continues to ruin Southern West Virginia for its own extra-profit. As it led the way in union busting, it now leads the way in mountaintop removal…

Here is what Bob Kincaid, a native from West Virginia coal country, had to say about this film:

This film cries out for a “Where Are They Now” follow-up.
I’ll warrant none of us would be surprised at the results.
The UMWA is a broken, subservient, pathetic shadow of what it once was, and I weep for my forebears who bled to make it.  With every breath he breathes, Cecil Roberts shames my ancestors who paid for his limousine and his well-dressed wife.  For my part, I wouldn’t pee in Cecil Roberts’ mouth if his guts were a blazing inferno.  The mere sight of the man fills me with generational revulsion.  I can’t see the man but I imagine him wearing big, floppy clown shoes.
The answers are not easily come by, but the result is easily seen.  The UMWA has welcomed Mountain Removers into its ranks and shamed the very blood upon which it was founded.  If there is a god, may It strike dead the “UMWA member” mountain remover who sets foot on the hallowed ground of Paint Creek, of Matewan, of Blair Mountain, anywhere Mary Harris Jones ever stood, and all the myriad places where brave men struggled that chickenshit UMWA mountain removers might live.
Yesterday, the United States Senate hocked up a big loogy and spat it square in his face with its abandonment of the card-check portion of the Employee Free Choice Act.  I happen to have been present on the 21st of January, 2009, in the Russell Senate Office Building when Harry Reid promised a roomful of “Progressive Media” a “card-check” bill “by summer.”  I asked the question and he made the promise looking me in the eye.  HE.LIED.  Soak that in: Harry Reid told a straight-up LIE.  The EFCA has been gutted by the Senate of the United States of America.  The Democratic Party has learned to use organized labor to get elected in the same fashion that the Republican Party has been using its shock troops from the anti-Abortion Industry for years.  Welcome to the House of Mirrors.
I don’t often essay to this list, so I hope you will forgive this one.  As I sit here, I remember a UMWA grandfather who died of Black Lung before his time, cherish the stories of a UMWA great-grandfather I never met but will know immediately in Heaven, yearn for a UMWA father who’s gone on and left me only his integrity and dedication, and I’m MAD.


3 Responses to “Massey Comes to Power”

  1. […] mines in Appalachia. That industry victory is chronicled in a short documentary called “The Mine War on Blackberry Creek.” As The Wonk Room noted, Don Blankenship was blunt about the profit motive driving the […]

  2. […] mines in Appalachia. That industry victory is chronicled in a short documentary called “The Mine War on Blackberry Creek.” As The Wonk Room noted, Don Blankenship was blunt about the profit motive driving the […]

  3. Anonymous Great Laker Says:

    I find it hard to accept that this and much of the Appalachian story hasn’t been in the U.S. history textbooks for high school students. From the human rights violations within America to the environmental harms, it continues today and few people realize that they can make substantial impacts on existing issues.

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