|dead_cat - 2011-11-12 |
"Here’s something the history books left out: In 1921, more than 10,000 West Virginia coal miners rose up in resistance to coal companies who refused to allow miners to unionize. It was the largest armed insurrection in the United States since the Civil War. This uprising, which took place in Logan County, West Virginia, is known as the Battle of Blair Mountain. The miners were met with a private army of police funded by coal companies, who employed, among other things, World War One planes to drop bombs and gas.
The Battle of Blair Mountain was five days long and bloody, leaving dozens of miners dead and many more imprisoned. Despite an impressive resistance effort, in the end the battle was lost upon the intervention of the United States army, who supported the coal industry. Blair was just one of many struggles to resist the oppression and hegemony of coal companies throughout the long history of mining in Appalachia, but it was unsurpassed in size and significance.
Big coal did all it could to prevent miners from unionizing and to silence their demands for fair wages and decent working conditions. In the late 1800s, the coal industry set up company towns throughout Appalachia, a fundamentally feudal system where companies owned all town establishments and paid workers in company scrip. Tactics included intimidation, harassment, physical violence—even murder. Coal companies hired gun thugs and strikebreakers to threaten miners, ensuring that they wouldn’t organize.
Today, coal companies like Massey Energy, now Alpha Energy, continue to exploit workers and ravage the environment through newer mining practices including mountain top removal. This devastating form of “extreme strip mining” entails literally blowing up mountains in order to extract seams of coal within. Mountains are stripped of trees and topsoil, and finally detonated. Not only does this process destroy the mountain itself, the “overburden”—toxic chemicals used as part of the extraction process— flow into nearby water sources, contaminating water in the entire region. The result is deadly both to wildlife and to human inhabitants anywhere near a mountaintop removal site.
Studies and statistics have verified this, yet the coal companies continue, as they always have, to neglect the rights of miners and miners’ families, putting profit ahead of human lives. Indeed, big coal has proven to be, again and again, hostile to Appalachian communities, culture, and land. And as of right now, over five hundred mountains have been destroyed by this egregious process."