Posted by: shannynmoore | September 1, 2012

Labor: What Side Are You On?

“You might be a redneck…” is the now-classic opening joke line for rural America. The true historic meaning of “redneck” was lost long ago to jokes about trailers and family reunion dating games.
Exactly 91 years ago this week, an estimated 15,000 coal miners in Logan County, West Virginia formed an armed militia to fight back against an army of police and strikebreakers backed by abusive coal operators. They wore red bandanas around their necks to identify themselves-thus the term, “redneck”. Habeas corpus was suspended. Over 100 people were killed, hundreds more wounded and 985 were arrested. Today, people still find old, abandoned weapons in the woods — a stark reminder of the Battle of Blair Mountain.
The year before, in 1920, detectives from Baldwin-Felts (think Blackwater) arrived via the morning train in Matewan, West Virginia to evict families living at the Stone Mountain Coal Camp. After forcing several families from their homes, the detectives ate dinner and then walked back to the train station. Matewan Police Chief Sid Hatfield, an ardent supporter of the miners’ struggle to organize, intervened on their behalf. Chief Hatfield attempted to arrest the evictors from Baldwin-Felts. Detective Albert Felts countered with an arrest warrant for Hatfield. Matewan Mayor Cabell Testerman cried foul. All the while, struggling armed miners quietly surrounded the detectives. The ensuing clash, which killed ten, including the Felts brothers and Mayor Testerman, became known as the Matewan Massacre and was a turning point for miners’ rights. Unfortunately today, the Matewan Massacre is but a footnote in history.
Six years earlier, on April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard attacked a tent city of 1,200 striking mine workers, riddling their canvas tents with machine guns. Dozens were killed including two women and 11 children who suffocated and burned to death in Colorado’s Ludlow Incident. Nearly 200 more would die in the strike. They rest in anonymity. The mining company evicted workers and their families and they were forced to live in tents that winter. Historian Howard Zinn described the Ludlow Massacre as “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history.”
All across the country, unions have been under a coordinated and unprecedented assault. People have forgotten US labor history along with the significance of the red bandanas as they have forgotten why unions are so important and necessary. Unions have pushed for safer working standards and living wages. Anti-union folks want to race to the bottom — as a Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann campaigned on lowering the minimum wage.  State legislatures across the country introduced legislation to lower the minimum wage.
You needn’t look any further than the 2010 West Virginia mining disaster to understand why unions are needed more than ever. Massey Energy, under the 30-year leadership of notorious union buster Don Blankenship, cut corners and killed 29 miners. It’s a non-union shop. When an investigation was opened, Massey Energy fought subpoenas then pled the Fifth. Their chief of security was found guilty lying to the FBI and trying to destroying evidence. He got three years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
The conservative sycophantic chant calls for the dismantling of unions. Have they no sense of history? Why do they hate the part of our history that built the platform they stand on? The weekend; 40-hour work weeks (they were averaging 61 hours); overtime; ending child labor; employer-based health care; minimum wage; and the medical leave act. You can have 12-weeks off and not get fired after you’ve had a child or need to tend to a sick family member. Why? Because unions fought corporations and earned that for you.
I’ve been waiting all week for union busting governors across the country to declare Monday “Corporation Day” or “Private Sector Day” and we can let go of that pesky “Labor Day.” Is it really breaking news when someone points out the GOP’s disdain for unions? Talk about stating the obvious.
Workers from classrooms to hotels to waste water utilities are under attack. It’s an ideology based upon greed and a lack of historical appreciation. Income inequality is at its lowest when union membership is high. We currently rank 64th in the world. Yes. We barely beat Uganda.
I got an e-mail this week calling me “a union shill.” I’m fine with that. I will shill while I still have breath in my lungs for working men and women in this country against corporations and their puppets who prefer indentured servants to employees. I will fight alongside of them against discrimination and unfair labor practices. On Monday, I’ll wear a red bandana in honor of my ancestors who fought in the Battle for Blair Mountain. I’ll remember my grandfather, Sam Moore, a member of John L. Lewis’s United Mine Workers of America. I’ll be grateful for my parents’ teacher union benefits that were mine as well through childhood.
I am honored to support the unions in this country, and it sure beats the hell out of shilling to race to the bottom.
Which side are you on?

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Responses

  1. NOT to get off topic , but I’m still looking for the “Moore up North” episode where you revealed ACES SEC filings and busted them for decreased output to claim higher costs to get 0 taxes……especially relevant now, since I just heard the same claims to justify allowing Shell to begin drilling off of Alaska’s pristine coast

  2. Shannyn,

    Excellent piece. Ii am always out here, reading your work. I have for years.

    My Grandfather was a coal miner in Ohio, and my Father was a steamfitter. Both were Union. Unions put food on our table and have always given me the strength to stand up and fight for what is right and fair.

    I am pro-union and I am a Democrat. Call me a liberal, or what you will. I am of—and for the working class. I am the 99 percent!

    Mitt Romney would not know a goods day work if it reached up and bit him in the arse. He has NO idea what it is like to be a coal miner, get black lungs—be bent over, live on food stamps, be disabled, work for a living, be a Vet, be un-insurable, or pay taxes.

    He is big business—and he is the 1%.

    A vote for Mitt Romney and his stooly bean-counter, Paul Ryan, is a vote for America to go back to the 8 years before Obama.

    Where are all of the people who did not want that 4 years ago?

    The first thing that the Romney/Ryan ticket will be cut, will be social programs.

    The war effort will be increased, because after all that is big money-regardless of how many American lives are lost.

    Remember the GOP is really good on scare tactics. Gotta keep up with the Chinese—North Korea, and all the people, who do not have our religious ideology.

    Danger lurks everywhere, for the GOP. especially in the Obama camp.

    The GOP, is not pro Union. They are big business. The same people who killed the coal miners, are the same people who are in the GOP. It is a simple comparison.

    They are the same people who want to destroy the pristine coastline of Alaska.

    Has the GOP ever said anything about going green?

    The same people who upped the prices of oil/gas when hurricane Issac went through because they had to shut down the wells for the storm.

    Yes Shannyn, I am PRO-UNION. I am of the 99 percent.

    Yet, if I were not—I would not mind paying my fair share of taxes, I would give to social programs and I would help those who were needy. That is the difference between Romney and me. OH yes, and I did not go to prep school.

    Mitt Romney has no compassion, he is mean to dogs, can not tell a joke, has no empathy, no sympathy, and worse—he has played the race card during this election. Not only against minorities, but against the lower and middle classes of America. This is despicable.

    AND—as a woman, I would not vote for anyone who feels that abortions should not be allowed for any reason. Regardless of rape, the health of the mother, or the child…NO, not for any reason.

    Step back BIG BROTHER—you have no right to tell me what to do with my body. Church and state should not intertwine. Take a flying leap!

    PRO UNION—ANTI ROMNEY/RYAN.

    Sharon
    ~The Baby Boomer Queen~
    Whewwwwwwww…I am worn out form that rant!
    Feel free to come over to BabyBoomerAdvisorClub and do the same…

  3. Thanks for a great read! It’s very sad that so many are so lacking on history in this country that they will race to cross picket lines (busting unions) to get the jobs that were fought so hard for by the professional union members!

  4. My grandfather was a union organizer in the Nevada silver mines in the late 1800s & early 1900s. I’m a member of the Authors Guild and past member of the National Writers Union. I know what side I’m on!

  5. [...] Labor: “I am honored to support the unions in this country, and it sure beats the hell out of shilling to race to the [...]

  6. Shannyn, You never disappoint, and living in Canada, there is history of Union
    struggles. Our leader in BC made a big bold move in 2004 to send us Union workers in health care spiraling our wages downward not meeting a living wage being that BC has the highest cost of living. Leaving lots of folk not being able to live in the province that they were born in and opening the gates for many immigrants with lots of money to make themselves cozy in our beautiful coastal province, as Alaska knows what its like to live in beauty and
    fairness. As a health care worker in BC, my job went from a full time position to a part time position and wages were dropped 3.50 less an hour. Making for big adjustments in lifestyle and making choices to pay off bills than vacationing
    is not what i was planning on in mid life.
    Keep up your posts this election season in the states Shannyn, as Canada
    has and always knows where its heading when things change in the USA. and this election is One of the most needed election where people need to get out to Vote. Republicans, making voting not a Right…. is racist in every extreme
    please realize this. You folks do not want a corporate america running a company of the states…… (the word United, does not suite this group of fat cats) and being in the 21st century we are smarter than this and must rise above the republican idiocracy. Please vote, Canadians watch and are hoping for Pres. Barack Obama to get his next 4 years, which he needs to continue his policy. Too many people want instant grataification, i know what it means to have less money in my pocket too, but knowing the Pres. is on Your side
    he has made so many changes in many ways, please keep what he is about
    in your minds and you will have no problem voting for him again. Romney is Not on your side, he has Koch bros and addelsons to pay back if he gets in and that means the american people are not on his adjenda… low wage jobs
    for ever with his group and fracking in every state leaving families withhout land they call their own. Pay attention to fracking … its NOt clean energy.
    Move Forward, environment , wind energy, solor, electric car, free of oil Is the future and will not be Instant but it is the way to move, Forward.
    Please VOTE.

  7. Hey Shannon, this was such a great piece that I included it in my Labor Day Holiday article over at BabyBoomerAdvisorClub
    Herei s a link for you:http://babyboomeradvisorclub.com/2012/09/04/labor-day-holiday/


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