No Pay, We Stay
September 2, 2019 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Miners in Kentucky continue their month long protest, playing cornhole on the train tracks. "A protest that began with five men blocking a train full of coal has grown into a small 24-hour tent city along some railroad tracks next to the highway. It has become a pilgrimage site for labor activists, a rallying point for the community — “a tailgate party on steroids,” as one local official approvingly put it. And it is the first organized miners’ protest that anyone can remember for decades in Harlan County, Ky., a place once virtually synonymous with bloody labor wars."
posted by stoneweaver (11 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

The best strike ever is the strike wherein those who did the work don't allow the fruits of their labors to benefit their overlords. This whole situation is shitty and I wish it would get resolved. But I do appreciate the direct connection between the laborers and what they did and how they are denying those who won't pay them.
posted by hippybear at 10:32 AM on September 2, 2019 [9 favorites]

posted by Joe in Australia at 10:51 AM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

[Folks, it is totally possible to discuss the intersection of national politics and union activism. But we need to do that with actual words and arguments, not by dropping gotcha statistics into threads and assuming that that's somehow a trump card.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:51 AM on September 2, 2019 [7 favorites]

Simplest explanation is that racism trumps economic anxiety for many people.

I was born in Kentucky and have lived most of my life here. Racism is in fact a major reason why people in the state vote against their economic interests, closely followed or maybe even equaled by the abortion issue. There are lots of people for whom the second one is the only thing that matters - they are literally single issue voters.

Also re: the point raised by T.D. Strange: most people in Harlan county didn’t vote at all in the 2016 election. Dismissing Harlan county as Trump country or whatever does a disservice to the people who did not or were unable to vote.

It's not really a disservice. It really is "Trump country" there. I've lived in Kentucky 43 of my 53 years. I've traveled all over the state. I've done business in Eastern Kentucky. Believe me, it's "Trump country" there. Even if the majority of the residents didn't vote for him, the vast majority of them love him.
posted by JeffL at 10:56 AM on September 2, 2019 [9 favorites]

Cornhole is a bean-bag toss "get it in the target hole" game that has other names in other places, but this one seems to be the main one because even ESPN has cornhole competitions.

It's an uncomfortable word and I wish it was something else, but that's the reality we live in, so there it is.
posted by hippybear at 10:57 AM on September 2, 2019 [5 favorites]

For local coverage on the ground, Sydney Boles is a good person to follow.

There may be union workers/representatives coming to the blockade to show solidarity, but these unpaid Blackjewel coal miners are not unionized. The last union mine in Kentucky closed in 2015. While Trump support in the area is high, the WaPo coverage notes that the miners are maintaining their solidarity by keeping a policy of not talking about Trump or larger political issues.

Details of the reckless mismanagement that led to the Blackjewel LLC bankruptcy are just infuriating. The company was able to repay $52.8 million in loans to its CEO Jeff Hoops ahead of bankruptcy; he is now in the process of building a resort that will contain replicas of Yankee Stadium and the Roman Coliseum.

If you are looking for a way to help beyond sending pizza, over a thousand of the laid-off Blackjewel workers are being represented by Mountain State Justice and Sam Petsonk who is currently running for West Virginia Attorney General.
posted by peeedro at 11:51 AM on September 2, 2019 [14 favorites]

I fear that the strike as it is won't be broken by the police or management giving in, but a week's long winter storm.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:36 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Other coverage of this protest included statements that, in addition to salaries not being paid at all, some salary payments were clawed back from workers' accounts.

How is that possible?
posted by uberchet at 8:51 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bad news update, the crew of transgender anarchists who are given credit for turning the blockade into an organized labor camp doing things like raising money, setting up a camp phone line, a solar shower, and a kitchen capable of feeding dozens have been run off. From their Instagram:
An update from the trans anarchist collective who spent 28 days at the Blackjewel Miners' Blockade.    

This is a photo of one of the last times camp was good, a few nights ago. We were enjoying Joe Pack's chicken which is an eastern Kentucky staple.

We are sure y'all are hearing some wild rumors about us and that makes us sad, but we aren't in the interest of putting down the miners or their families, we love those people. But we will tell you why we left. And we will ensure you that every dime of the money we raised will be dispersed, we've only been gone from camp 1 day. So we certainly haven't taken off with any money... just collecting ourselves.

First and foremost, during the action we posted around two weeks ago, a trucker group 'Black Smoke Matters' showed up at camp. We were told they were Teamsters and that racism wouldn't be allowed in the space, but one of the truckers disclosed that he is a Nazi sympathizer, postured to us about all the guns he has and how rich he is, and made several of our comrades who were living at camp (a mixture of trans people, Jewish folks, Black people) feel unsafe to be at the camp we've helped build and grown to love. We had a meeting with the miners and we were ensured that this wouldn't happen again.

However, we returned from a shopping run for gear to find the same trucker at camp yesterday morning. We pleaded with the miners to ask him to leave, to keep our space safe. They refused. They did nothing. We had to leave camp because we will not enable racism or complacency to racism. But we will be dispersing the money and we are sorry to everyone who is as heartbroken about this as we are.
posted by peeedro at 1:50 PM on September 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Battle for a Paycheck in Kentucky Coal Country in The New Yorker.
posted by peeedro at 8:27 PM on September 10, 2019

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