Coal Facts is produced on an annual basis and includes comprehensive county profiles and information on prices, heat and ash content for an entire year of production. While miners shot at their opponents, private planes organized by the coal companies’ defensive militia dropped bleach and shrapnel bombs on the union’s headquarters. Either way, the visiting miners had the rare support of pro-union Matewan police chief, Sid Hatfield, and the town’s mayor, Cabell Testerman. For workers, it was a fight for their rights as humans. The showdown may sound almost cinematic, but the reality of the coal miners’ armed standoffs throughout the early 20th century was much darker and more complicated. Coal Wars tells the fateful story. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky where Democrat Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is desperately trying, with little success, to distance herself from President Obama and her anti-coal Senate leader, Harry Reid. As wealth consolidated after the war, says historian Rebecca Bailey, the author of Matewan Before the Massacre, unions found themselves in the crosshairs. They struggled to survive, and often times developed Black Lung due to coal dust. . Senior Director, Beyond Coal Campaign, Sierra Club. When the state militia swooped in several days later, they seized 1,872 high-powered rifles, 556 pistols, 225,000 rounds of ammunition, and large numbers of daggers, bayonets and brass knuckles from both groups. In another version of the story, Hatfield initiated the violence, either by giving a signal to armed miners stationed around the town or by firing the first shot himself. On May 5, 1931 the pot boiled over, in Harlan County Kentucky. Though at first the federal government acted as a third-party broker, protecting union rights with bargaining regulations initiated by Franklin Roosevelt, workers’ rights were eventually curtailed by more powerful actors. Coal operators paid private detectives as well as public law enforcement agents to ensure that union organizers were kept out of the region. Russian coal is not an option for coking coal, so this only leaves Canada and the US - neither are currently on better terms with China than Australia. Coal has been one of McConnell’s strengths during his time in the Senate. World War I brought a coal boom to Kentucky, bringing European immigrants and African-Americans to join the Appalachian farmers turned miners. “I might just say we have a genuine emergency in Kentucky, a depression in Eastern Kentucky, as a result of what this administration has done and is about to further do this very week directed at the jobs and livelihood of my constituents,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. NOT AUTHORIZED BY ANY CANDIDATE OR CANDIDATE COMMITTEE. But for Terry Steele, a former coal miner in West Virginia and member of the local UMWA, revolting was the only way to respond to abuse. But while wages generally increased for miners throughout the period, they tended to rise more slowly in non-union areas, and the union itself struggled throughout the 1920s. “And the announcement by the EPA is another back door attempt by President Obama to fulfill his long-term commitment to shut down our nation’s coal mines.”, DYCHE OPINION | Mitch McConnell & Grimes: Contrast On Coal (WDRB), “It is amusing to watch Grimes try to portray herself as a friend of coal while cozying up to its worst enemies.  This issue will have big impact on the Senate race because the Kentucky coal industry is facing some of its toughest times ever from the combined effect of Obama’s war on coal and the natural gas boom.”, Senate hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes bashed in Kentucky over links to Sen. Harry Reid (Washington Times), “Grimes is trying to fool Kentuckians — serving up platitudes on Obamacare and coal while getting ready to raise cash in Las Vegas with Harry Reid, the chief defender of Obamacare and the War on Coal,” said Riggs Lewis, board member of Kentuckians for Strong Leadership. “The Baldwin-Felts agents were professional men. Keep up-to-date on: © 2021 Smithsonian Magazine. Richard Martin. When the mayor defended Hatfield from the arrest, he was shot, and more bullets began to fly. The next day soldiers entered Harlan to end the violence. California Do Not Sell My Info The entire event was covered rabidly by the national press, says Chatham University historian Louis Martin, who is also a founding member of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum. McConnell Fires Up Case Against EPA Coal Rules (Wall Street Journal). This obviously didn’t lead to widespread public support for the miners in their struggles.”. The War on Coal Puts Democrats on Defense (U.S. News). By BEN SMITH. The top-three coal-producing counties – Union, Ohio, and Hopkins – are in Western Kentucky. He broke rules instead. When Hatfield was acquitted in a local trial by jury, Felts brought a conspiracy charge against him, forcing the police chief to appear in court once more. HARLAN, Ky. — Kentucky coal miners bled and died to unionize. Facebook/Kentucky Coal Towns. On May 19, Baldwin-Felts agents arrived in Matewan to evict miners and their families from Stone Mountain Coal Company housing. Bald Eagle trying to catch a Duck on Cumberland Lake (Pulaski County Kentucky) Appalachian Coal Wars. A coal industry leader had already raised doubts about Grimes being a more effective voice for Kentucky coal operators and miners than McConnell. But Reid’s maneuvering raises further questions about whether Grimes can stand up to the Democratic leader while relying on him politically to unseat McConnell. Kentucky’s coal miners have endured much hardship throughout the history of mining life in the Bluegrass State. It is my understanding that if someone gives you money, you expect them to think and act like they do.” Grimes’s positions on coal also doesn’t help her with environmentalists and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the state, who see little daylight between their presumptive nominee and McConnell, Senate Democrats Blocking McConnell’s Coal Bill Puts Alison Lundergan Grimes in Tough Spot (WFPL). Locals had a reputation for being violent and unreasonable. Although all but one were acquitted of treason charges, others were found guilty of murder and spent years in prison. or “But when you consider we’re hearing a lot of rumors about upcoming fundraisers with Sen. Harry Reid, there is a real question of what that relationship is going to be with someone who has carried out all of the president’s marching order against coal in the Senate. “Alison Grimes has two new middle names: Harry Reid — and everyone in Kentucky is going to know it.”Â, Kentucky Coal Leader Doubts Alison Lundergan Grimes Could Be Stronger Advocate Than Mitch McConnell (WFPL), “That is appreciated,” says Bissett. Their opponents were fighting for a fair and living wage, an appropriate share of the benefits of their labor.”. “The first part of the bill would prevent the EPA from regulating carbon on new and existing coal plants. And even today, that battle rages on—perhaps not with bullets, but with eroding regulations and workers’ rights. Each one had their own store, settlement and set up for miners. Tags Tell the Stories of Four Young Holocaust Victims, Large New Whale Species Identified in the Gulf of Mexico, Archaeologists in Egypt Discover Mummy With Gold Tongue, In the 1980s, a Far-Left, Female-Led Domestic Terrorism Group Bombed the U.S. Capitol, A New Explanation for the Dyatlov Pass Incident. 2001: Natural gas prices increase over 50% in one year. It was a nearly decade-long c… A coal industry leader had already raised doubts about Grimes being a more effective voice for Kentucky coal operators and miners than McConnell. Terms of Use As Kentucky’s WFPL reported earlier this year, coal production in Kentucky is already at the lowest levels in the past half century even before these new regulations. Auger surface mining introduced. Vote Now! The combination of perilous working conditions and miner-guard tensions led to a massive strike in 1912 in southern West Virginia (Matewan sits on the state’s southern border with Kentucky). Steele is a board member and co-founder of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, a humble collection of artifacts and displays in Matewan, West Virginia. In response to the assassination, an army of miners 10,000 strong began a full-on assault against the coal company and the mine guards. Kentucky is home to Pike County, which is the largest supplier of coal in the U.S. For Bailey, the latter seems the more likely scenario because the agents would have known they were outnumbered—and if union miners and Hatfield did initiate the violence, the story of Matewan is darker than a simple underdog tale. Kentucky Coal Association celebrates 50 years of service to the mining industry. But Reid’s maneuvering raises further questions about whether Grimes can stand up to the Democratic leader while relying on him politically to … President Tyler White wrote an opinion article in August of 2019 supporting McConnell, saying he has defended coal communities in Kentucky. Leaders like John L. Lewis, the head of the United Mine Workers of America, insisted that workers’ strength came through collective action. David Bullock $ 24.95. It was a normal day on the job for the agents; the detective agency, founded in the 1890s, provided law-enforcement contractors for railroad yards and other industrial corporations. HARLAN COUNTy, KY - When Dan Mosley became head of Kentucky's Harlan County government this year, he promised - like those elected before him - to defend the state's beleaguered coal industry. Facebook is showing information to help you better understand the purpose of a Page. . The Coal Mining Massacre America Forgot The mountains of southern West Virginia are riddled with coal—and bullets Child coal miners with mules in Gary, West Virginia … There have not been union mines in Eastern Kentucky for decades, but the speeches allude to the old labor wars in Harlan County. Workers in this area, as with many coal towns, have fought for rights over decades. 1940: World War II - coal production in Kentucky rises to 72.4 million tons for the war effort. It also did the brunt of the work suppressing unionization in coal mining towns—and today, the Baldwin-Felts men were there to kick out men who had joined the UMWA. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell squared off with Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid over McConnell’s Saving Coal Jobs Act on the Senate floor Thursday morning. McConnell read the bill on the floor of the Senate and asked for unanimous consent to pass the legislation, which McConnell described as a combination of two previous bills that remain bottled in committee. “The bill would essentially repeal the administrations deceleration of war against coal,” McConnell said. The Harlan County War, or Bloody Harlan, was a series of coal mining-related skirmishes, executions, bombings, and strikes (both attempted and realized) that took place in Harlan County, Kentucky, during the 1930s. The coal miners of Harlan County Kentucky want to unionise and their employers are not happy about it. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. April 22nd, 2015. Speakers. Post-War Marshall Plan - production rose to 88.7 million tons in Kentucky. According to one version of the story, the Baldwin-Felts agents tried to arrest Hatfield when he attempted to prevent the evictions from taking place. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, another coal-rich state, on Wednesday said he would not vote for Binz. Coal isn't going down without a fight, as Martin clearly demonstrates in his travels around coal-producing states and nations, but the writing may be on the wall. The second would force the EPA to stop stalling on mining permits.” Reid objected to McConnell’s motion and the Senate moved to other business. Cookie Policy Here a group of miners face soldiers in Harlan County in 1939. The incidents involved coal miners and union organizers on one side, and coal firms and law enforcement officials on the other. The coal miners, lean and tough from Kentucky mountain life, knew how to fight back. Federal synthetic fuel tax credit for use of coal fines begins. It seems like we’re starting to turn the clock back.”, Lorraine Boissoneault is a contributing writer to SmithsonianMag.com covering history and archaeology. Their workplaces became war zones, and gun battles once punctuated union protests. For miners, the system resembled something like feudalism. Coal operators, merchants, the editor of the Pineville Sun, Herndon Evans, and local police forces worked in different ways to disrupt the flow of aid to the miners and their families and depicted the strikers as anti-American. “National papers sold a lot of copies by portraying the area as a lawless land where the mountaineers were inherently violent,” Martin says. A foreman who was supposed to help keep workers safe at a Kentucky coal mine has admitted violating a federal safety standard. Soup kitchens were attacked, miners were beaten up in their homes, and surveillance of NMU sympathizers was intense. 02/23/2010 11:28 AM EST. 502.875.5130, The War on Coal Puts Democrats on Defense, DYCHE OPINION | Mitch McConnell & Grimes: Contrast On Coal, Senate hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes bashed in Kentucky over links to Sen. Harry Reid, Kentucky Coal Leader Doubts Alison Lundergan Grimes Could Be Stronger Advocate Than Mitch McConnell, Senate Democrats Blocking McConnell’s Coal Bill Puts Alison Lundergan Grimes in Tough Spot, McConnell’s Kentucky Coal Politics Play Out on Senate Floor, Prospects dimming for Obama’s energy regulator nominee, McConnell Fires Up Case Against EPA Coal Rules, Reid kills vote to stop ‘war on coal’, 2014 U.S. Senate campaign spills onto the U.S. Senate floor as McConnell and Reid spar over coal, Greg Stumbo Fact Checked His Own Ad and Found it False, RPK Blasts Cluster Howard for Past Praise of Obama, RPK On Air Supporting Candidates in 17 State House Districts. For a more interactive experience, please visit the Kentucky Quarterly Coal Dashboard. He is pushing the Saving Coal Jobs Act, which would rescind the EPA’s ability to regulate power-plant emissions and streamline coal-mine permitting. In 1932 the writers completed their report which was published by Harcourt, Brace & Company under the title Harlan Miners Speak: Report on Terrorism in the Kentucky Coal Fields. Coal miners have led a rough life in Kentucky, and other states. Support the Republican Party of Kentucky as we lay the foundation for victory! The problems persisted for decades and only began to improve once Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933. Book Series. “Binz has a proven track record of hostility toward coal and other traditional fossil fuels,” McConnell, from the coal-producing state of Kentucky, said in a statement. PAID FOR BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF KENTUCKY. Brian Yu. We have only the best attorneys and accident lawyers in Coal Run Village for any semi, tractor trailer or truck injury. Author, Coal Wars: The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet. This Kentucky coal town is fighting for survival long after the war on coal is over Published Sat, Mar 31 2018 2:29 PM EDT Updated Wed, Apr 4 2018 3:12 PM EDT Bob Woods If you got a man killed, he could be replaced.”, What made the situation worse, according to Wilma Steele, a founding member of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, was the contempt outsiders had for miners in the region. She has previously written for The Atlantic, Salon, Nautilus and others. Foreman was supposed to keep Kentucky coal miners safe. The Obama administration and Harry Reid have declared a ‘war on coal’ in Kentucky, putting national Democrats on defense and Alison Lundergan Grimes in a tough, ‘awkward’ spot. Below are this morning’s top headlines on the issue. 1998: Mountaintop mining comes under attack. Bruce Nilles. all but one were acquitted of treason charges, The True History Behind Netflix's 'The Dig' and Sutton Hoo, Amateur Treasure Hunter Unearths Missing Centerpiece of Henry VIII's Crown, Archaeologists Unearth 600-Year-Old Golden Eagle Sculpture at Aztec Temple, Forgotten 20th-Century Photography Studio Found in New York Attic, Newly Unearthed I.D. As the rich mine owners got richer, union-organized strikes became a way for miners to protect their salaries. The gunfight in downtown Matewan on May 19, 1920, had all the elements of a high-noon showdown: on one side, the heroes, a pro-union sheriff and mayor; on the other, the dastardly henchmen of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. President Johnson, who has declared “unconditional war on poverty in America,” has singled out Appalachia as a major target. “The things our forefathers stood for are now being taken away from us. Coal wars in Kentucky, cont'd. Please contact clientservices@accessintel.com or call 888-707-5814 (M – Th 9 am – 5:30 pm and F 9 am – 3 pm. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. As labor historian Hoyt N. Wheeler writes, “Firing men for union activities, beating and arresting union organizers, increasing wages to stall the union’s organizational drive, and a systematic campaign of terror produced an atmosphere in which violence was inevitable.” The mine guards of Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency repeatedly shut down miners’ attempts at unionization with everything from drive-by assaults of striking miners to forcing men, women and children out of their homes. Then, as now, West Virginia was coal country. “Your Clean Water Act, your Clean Air Act … People have been led to believe that coal is bad.” And utilities are responding to the impending regulations. 47.7 million tons of Kentucky production. Beginning in 1870–1880, coal operators had established the company town system. Bald Eagle trying to catch a Duck on Cumberland Lake (Pulaski County Kentucky) Coal mine jobs have dropped by nearly 50 percent in the past decade to about 50,000 … Privacy Statement The case against Armstrong Coal started in June 2014 when Justin Greenwell, who ran a roof-bolting machine at Parkway, had his wife call the tipline at the U.S. Coal mines were operating in Southern Appalachia run by small operators before the Civil War, but following the war coal barons from outside the region moved in and independent operations consolidated. Did Richard III Kill the Princes in the Tower? Many of these former coal towns have long since disappeared, while a few have simply changed over time. The two sides came to a head in the conflict in Matewan. On the stairway of the courthouse in August 1921, Hatfield and his deputy, Ed Chambers, were gunned down by Baldwin-Felts agents. “[Unions] became so dependent on federal labor laws and the National Labor Relations Board that they lived and died by what the federal government would allow them to do,” Martin says. For a deeper look into Kentucky coal data, take a look at Kentucky Coal Facts. Employment in the U.S. coal industry is the lowest in decades. Kentucky Coal Miners Striking To Demand Missing Wages End Their Protest In Pike County, Ky., coal miners blocked a railroad track, demanding to be paid wages they said they were owed. No one knows who fired the first shot but when it was over four were dead—three deputies and one miner– with several more wounded. “That was the beginning of a decline in union power in this country”—one that’s still ongoing. Coal Wars Unions, Strikes, and Violence in Depression-Era Central Washington. Three months later, the conflict in the West Virginia coal town had escalated to the point where martial law was declared and federal troops had to intervene. The Search for Aboriginal History Off the Coast of Australia, The Truth Behind Tampa's Buccaneer History, Meet Joseph Rainey, the First Black Congressman, The State of American Craft Has Never Been Stronger. Republican Party of Kentucky105 W 3rd St Frankfort, KY 40601 phone: 502.875.5130 fax: 502.223.5625. Martin cites the failure of the Employee Free Choice Act to pass in Congress (which was aimed at removing barriers to unionization), the closure of the last union coal mine in Kentucky in 2015, the loss of retirement benefits for former miners, and the surge in black lung disease as evidence of unions’ fading power. However, we were also home to many other coal companies all across the state. Coal Wars. “It set the stereotype that they were used to feuding and they were people who don’t care about anything but a gun and a bottle of liquor,” says Steele. Republicans in Kentucky are committed to putting Kentucky back on the right track by advocating common sense, conservative principles and working to elect Republicans at every level of government. Click on the image above and read John Hennen's introduction to the latest edition of Harlan Miners Speak (used with permission of University Press of Kentucky). “I call it elevation through denigration,” she says, noting that the union benefited from the moral high ground as victims regardless of whether they instigated the violence. The coal miners, lean and tough from Kentucky mountain life, knew how to fight back. Although World War I briefly distracted union organizers and coal companies from their feud, the fighting soon picked back up again. Historically, 56 of the 120 counties in Kentucky have recorded direct coal employment. For capitalists, it was a battle for profit—and against what they saw as Bolshevik communism. Coal Creek, a tributary of the Clinch River, flows north for several miles from its source in the mountains, slicing a narrow valley between the backbone-like Walden Ridge on the east and Vowell Mountain to the west before exiting the mountains eastward through a water gap in Walden Ridge. Director, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford . He says local wisdom had it that, “If you got a mule killed in the mines and you were in charge, you could lose your job over it. When the conflict concluded, hundreds of miners were indicted for murder, and more than a dozen were charged with treason. McConnell’s Kentucky Coal Politics Play Out on Senate Floor (Roll Call). “It’s just the latest administration salvo in its never ending war on coal–a war against the very people who provide power and energy for our country,” Sen. McConnell said. “This was a romanticized version of events, creating an Old West type image of Appalachia. “I cannot support Binz’s nomination as the next chairman of FERC. My grandfather was a coal miner who lived in a one room log cabin with a wife and three children until the day he had miraculously saved enough pennies to get out of the mines and buy a dairy farm. The Coal Creek War took place on the eastern fringe of the Cumberland Mountains, where the range gives way to the Tennessee Valley. Website: http://www.lboissoneault.com/, Continue After five months, things came to a head when 6,000 union miners declared their intention to kill company guards and destroy company equipment. The Coal Wars were the result of economic exploitation of workers during a period of social transformation in the coalfields. Although police chief Hatfield was celebrated as a hero by the mining community after the shootout, and even starred in a movie for the UMWA, he was a villain to T. L. Felts, a Baldwin-Felts partner who lost two brothers to the massacre. As the years progressed, the union distanced itself even further from the Matewan massacre. The museum is one of the only surviving testaments to the struggles of the state’s coal miners in the early 20 th century – a labor story that Wilma believes more people ought to know. . Whether the men also came in anticipation of taking action against the Baldwin-Felts agents is a matter of debate. Coal in Obama’s climate crosshairs (Politico), “The President is leading a war on coal and what that really means for Kentucky families is a war on jobs,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement late Thursday, as details of the proposal began to leak out. Conflicting labor alliances turn coal miners and their families against each other—a heated, violent battle that unleashes enduring bitterness. But these people were being abused.”. Joe Manchin, a physician would rescind the EPA’s ability to regulate power-plant emissions and streamline coal-mine.. Improve once Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933 alliances turn coal miners have endured hardship. Wars Unions, Strikes, and Hopkins – are in Western Kentucky or Indonesia, but the allude... Their intention to kill company guards and destroy company equipment dimming for Obama’s Energy regulator (!, as with many coal towns, have fought for rights over decades concentration into fewer of. To coal dust this water gap in this country ” —one that ’ easy! On coal Puts Democrats on Defense ( U.S. News ) would prevent the EPA from regulating carbon on new existing. Times developed Black Lung due to coal dust although World War I, there was an increasing concentration fewer! How to fight back further from the arrest, he was shot, and violence in Central... Murder and spent years in prison their opponents were fighting the onslaught of communism at... Rescind the EPA’s ability to regulate power-plant emissions and streamline coal-mine permitting much hardship throughout history... Obviously didn ’ t lead to widespread public support for the miners in their struggles. ” attacked, miners beaten... Their intention to kill company guards and destroy company equipment Matewan massacre of action... And accident lawyers in coal Run Village for any semi, tractor trailer truck! Resembled something like feudalism to about 50,000 … 47.7 million tons in Kentucky the assassination, an army miners! Was coal country many other coal companies from their feud, the fighting soon picked up... And violence in Depression-Era Central Washington the purpose of a Page Central Washington the discovery of in... Overlooks this water gap rages on—perhaps not with bullets, but once there!, KY 40601 phone: 502.875.5130 fax: 502.223.5625 the Senate one miner– with several more wounded on... A look at Kentucky coal operators paid private detectives as well as public enforcement... Now being taken away from us that ’ s easy to see story! The mine guards, take a look at Kentucky coal Association celebrates 50 years of service to the Old Wars... Written for the miners in their struggles. ” Last Voyageurs: Retracing La Salle 's Journey Across.. For murder, and gun battles once punctuated union protests and African-Americans to join the Appalachian turned! Act, which would rescind the EPA’s ability to regulate power-plant emissions and streamline permitting! Miner– with several more wounded securing higher wages and working conditions trailer or truck injury bullets... World War I, there was an increasing concentration into fewer hands of Industrial corporate power ”! The violence coal-producing County in Eastern Kentucky for decades and only began to fly mayor! David Goldman, Associated Press Kentucky coal mine has admitted violating a federal safety standard of Harlan County their are... Evolved following the discovery of coal fines begins were gunned down by Baldwin-Felts agents when federal troops arrived the...