Final week marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain, the greatest labor rebellion in U.S. background. In 1921, about 10,000 coal miners in Logan County, West Virginia, who had been striving to unionize with the United Mine Personnel of The united states went to war from about 3,000 coal bosses, point out police, personal safety forces and scabs. For 5 extended, bloody days, individuals miners in their red bandannas — the Red Neck Army, as they known as themselves — held the line, fighting like hell for their futures and their families. About a million shots had been fired, in excess of a dozen folks died, the coal bosses dropped bombs and poison gas on mining camps, and the conflict finished only simply because of federal intervention. Blair Mountain was a pivotal minute in U.S. labor background and a hallowed chapter in the struggle for workers’ legal rights.
But despite Blair Mountain’s dramatic resolution, it continues to be a unusually minimal-recognised historical footnote.
But in spite of Blair Mountain’s extraordinary resolution, it stays a strangely tiny-known historical footnote exterior of neighborhood publications, labor history groups and labor-friendly progressive media shops. The simple fact that this centennial handed largely unmarked is not a coincidence. As Tennessee-based mostly journalist Abby Lee Hood discussed in a recent New York Instances op-ed, a coal-funded nativist business referred to as the American Constitutional Association has worked for many years to deliberately obscure the battle’s historical past, as properly as the even extended custom of militant, interracial labor arranging in the coalfields. The tale of Blair Mountain has been repressed by these who would favor to retain employees in the dark about their individual collective ability, as have so lots of other doing the job-course stories.
Even contemporary labor tales are tough to arrive by in most significant media stores, and labor reporters like me make up a scrappy but nevertheless little cohort of the media alone. And bosses are able to exploit that lack of interest for their possess agendas. For case in point, have you heard about the 700 St. Vincent Medical center nurses in Worcester, Massachusetts, who have been on what is now the longest-managing strike in condition history? How about the Nabisco strike, which experienced exploded to include things like in excess of 1,000 associates of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ Intercontinental Union in 5 states? And speaking of coal miners, did you know that more than 1,100 customers of the United Mine Employees are on strike proper now in rural Alabama?
The Warrior Satisfied Coal Strike has been heading on since April 1, and the placing staff and their households have been weathering financial strain, enterprise hostilities and violence on the picket strains with subsequent to no media interest or assist from neighborhood or condition politicians. A number of vehicular assaults on the hanging workers have been documented, with a number of folks, like a miner’s wife, hospitalized employees have been surveilled by company drones and hassled by law enforcement, and I’ve heard tales of multiple workers’ getting threatened by scabs and company staff members.
Coal mining is a unsafe work, and as background has revealed time and time all over again, so is standing up to coal bosses.
Just about every single 1 of these strikes (and lots of much more moreover) ought to be entrance-page news, and each of their rank-and-file leaders need to be handed microphones and invited in front of news cameras to notify their tales and display other employees that they can do it, also. The untold history of American labor contains so lots of various voices, encounters and struggles it has touched every man or woman living on this stolen land, and it has formed the way today’s staff go by way of society. Of training course, it’s in the most effective curiosity of capital and the controlling course to tamp down as considerably of that generational awareness and solidarity as feasible. We just can’t have staff receiving ideas, you see, and robbing people today of their own background is a surefire way to persuade them that items have normally been this way and that resistance is futile.
Even Labor Working day has a much less than auspicious record. The holiday break was signed into federal regulation with a stroke of President Grover Cleveland’s pen in 1894, through an period marked by significant strikes, popular labor unrest and the marketing campaign for the eight-hour workday, a motion led by labor radicals and anarchist revolutionaries. That year on your own, 125,000 Pullman railroad personnel across 29 railroads had walked off the position to protest wage cuts.
But even though there is some historical disagreement about its precise origins, Labor Working day has subsequently been applied to immediate employees away from celebrating Global Workers’ Working day, also recognised as Could Day, with all of its groundbreaking, anti-capitalist connotations. In 1955, in the course of a crackdown on leftist businesses and labor unions, the governing administration selected Might 1 as “Loyalty Day” even now, the president troubles a “Loyalty Day” proclamation just about every calendar year on a day the relaxation of the entire world dedicates to its employees.
That history may perhaps have been buried, but workers’ bodies hold the rating. This is all why it is so exceptionally important for us to bear in mind Blair Mountain and to stand in solidarity with struggles like all those of the St. Vincent nurses, the Nabisco employees and the Warrior Met Coal Strike. With each new labor conflict, we have a new prospect to stand up from capitalist tyranny, guidance our co-personnel and communities and take back again far more of what is been stolen from us.
This Labor Day, choose a second to remember individuals collective radical roots and uncover inspiration in the bravery and sacrifice of generation soon after generation of workers who had nothing left to give but continue to gave anything they experienced. As Florence Reece, a coal miner’s daughter turned lifelong labor activist, wrote back in 1912 as her father held the picket line, which facet are you on?