Tag: Coal Mine Strike
Hundreds of coal miners in Brookwood reached a milestone Thursday: They’ve spent 20 months on strike.
That’s well past the six-week average for strikes, according to Bloomberg Law. The miners believe it’s the longest strike in Alabama’s history. They have continued demanding their employer, Warrior Met Coal, restore the pay and benefits that were cut in 2016 as a cost-saving measure to keep the mines from shutting down.
Out of the 900 miners who started the strike a year and a half ago, 500 remain, according to United Mine Workers of America. Read more.
Every two weeks on the grass and gravel outside a United Mine Workers of America union hall, miners sing happy birthday to their kids, eat hot dogs and announce the names of members who have died since the last rally.
But the camaraderie in the parking lot contrasts with the tension in the small town of Brookwood, Alabama. Miners wear shirts that read “no luv for scabs” — slang for workers who have crossed the picket line — and cheer as a local union leader tells a story of threatening one of those strikebreakers at a gas station.
“I said, ‘I’m going to beat your eyes out and then blow your brains out,’” Larry Spencer said as the crowd laughed in March. “‘Because I’m tired of you taking my brothers’ and sisters’ jobs.’”
The strike at the Warrior Met Coal-owned mines in Brookwood, where hundreds of these union workers are employed, is on its 16th month and counting. During that time, the strike led to fist fights, flattened tires and shattered car windows. Now, the United Mine Workers of America union is fighting a $13.3 million dollar fine that’s, at least in part, for the property damage. The confrontations on the Warrior Met Coal picket line make up the latest chapter in a long, rough history of conflict between miners and companies that explain why some historians call the U.S. labor movement one of the bloodiest. Read more.
Coal mines are, unsurprisingly, a tough place to work. They’re dark and dirty and every breath brings in toxic chemicals.
And Brian Kelly wants to be back there.
“I love it,” Kelly said. “It’s paradise to me.”
Kelly fell in love with the mines because of the brotherhood he forged 2,000 feet underground. Over the past year, that bond has been tested. Friday marks one year since Kelly and 900 other coal miners went on strike in Brookwood.
The strikers demand that Warrior Met Coal, the company they’re striking against, restore the pay and benefits miners gave up in 2016 when the mines were in danger of shutting down.
As the months crawled on, the miners stuck with a slogan — “one day longer” — as in, they’re willing to hold out on this strike one day longer than Warrior Met Coal will. But a year without their old paychecks has caused a few workers to cross the picket line. The hundreds that remain still defiantly say “one day longer,” though they admit that it requires deep sacrifice and it’s building resentment. Read more.