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Coal mining in this country and the labor organizing and bloody resistance to it that went on in the mines has been something I've spent much time reading about and otherwise exploring, including many interviews with old-time miners. That interest originally stemmed from stories my grandfather told me about his time in the mines in the teens and twenties as well as his 24 years organizing for the United Mine Workers in the twenties, thirties and forties.
underage slate pickers in coal mine.
Slate boys at work in Pennsylvania
He and his brother first went to work before World War I in the coal mines of Alabama as slate boys. They straddled a tilted box picking out hunks of slate to toss aside from amid the coal that tumbled past. Dangerous and dirty and poorly paid work. Underground, where my grandfather eventually spent 12 years, was even dirtier and more dangerous although the pay was marginally better.

He was 17 in 1921 when the Alabama State Militia was called in to put down a strike organized by black and white miners by the United Mine Workers. They killed 16 miners. In 1927, he went to work for the UMW. The next year, the state finally abolished "slave mines" where African Americans who had been arrested on what were often bogus charges of loitering or vagrancy were leased to private coal companies under an arrangement typical of the South and described by Douglas Blackmon in his 2008 book as Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.

My grandfather would later become the first American Indian regional organizer for the UMW, working in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin (where the union briefly sought to organize iron miners). In the 1970s, black lung killed him in the nasty way that it does.

One reason labor history of the sort that he lived barely gets taught in elementary or secondary school (or not taught at all) can be found in the series that Erik Loomis has written for the website Lawyers, Guns & Money. He calls it, naturally enough,  "This Day in Labor History." There are 76 entries in the series so far. Today's entry takes us back 116 years.

On September 10, 1897, Luzerne County sheriff deputies slaughtered 19 unarmed coal miners striking outside of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The strikers, primarily German, Polish, Lithuanian, and Slovak immigrants, were fighting for decent wages and working conditions in the one of the most brutal industries in the nation. The Lattimer Massacre was a touchstone event in the history of the United Mine Workers of America, who used it to organize workers across the region.

The 1890s saw a rise in immigration from Germany and eastern Europe; thousands of those migrants came to the coal mines of eastern Pennsylvania. They were recruited there by coal companies as strikebreakers and because of that, the English, Welsh, and Scottish miners that previously dominated the industry hated them as scabs. Conditions in the coal miners were abysmal, with mine collapses and death shockingly common, a situation akin to modern Chinese mines. Making things worse was the Panic of 1893 and following depression that lasted for five years. The terrible poverty and desperation that resulted from these events led to some of the most dramatic events in American labor history, including the Pullman Strike, Coxey’s Army, and the rise of the Populists as a serious challenge to the 2-party system. Mine owners slashed wages during the depression for those who could get work at all. Typical company town conditions existed as well, with miners forced to rent from company-owned homes at high prices, forced to see company doctors, forced to shop at company stores, etc.

In 1897, the miners went on strike. The Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company laid off workers, raised fees for homes and doctors, forced longer hours on those who still worked, and tolerated a decline in working conditions. Work became more dangerous and more profitable for capitalists. The strike was lead by drivers, mostly teenagers who ran teams of mules to carry the coal out of the mines. The company consolidated its mule stables, forcing the drivers to travel farther on their own time to get their animals. In response, the drivers struck on August 14. When the new mine superintendent, a man named Gomer Jones, found out the mule drivers were striking, he grabbed a crowbar and whacked the first striker he saw in the head. The striker fought back and a general scuffle ensued. This helped lead the rest of the workers out on strike. With overall employment declining, workers saw little to lose by walking off the job together rather than get fired separately. By August 16, 2000 workers were on strike and most joined the United Mine Workers of America, a union trying to establish itself in the coal fields. This was a big deal because the Slavs had avoided the UMWA after being vilified by the unionized Anglo-Saxon miners. But the terrible conditions began to break down the ethnic divides in the anthracite fields.

The first strike ended on August 23 when the companies agreed to give miners the option to live in their own houses and see a doctor of their choosing, as well as grant a wage increase of about 10 cents. A second strike a few days later at nearby mines made the pay raise more universal in the region.

Or so the workers thought. In fact, when the owners announced the new pay rates on September 1, only a few workers saw a raise. On September 3, the workers went on strike again, with 3000 walking out. By September 8, somewhere between 5000 and 10,000 miners were on strike. […]

The coal companies’ private police force, the Coal and Iron Police, were overwhelmed by these numbers and the owners created a posse of English and Irish residents, including many ex-miners. On September 8, about 300-400 miners, largely Slavs and Germans, marched to a mine in the town of Lattimer to support miners who had just joined the UMWA. Expanding the strike to Lattimer would be a huge victory for the miners because it would go a long way to shut down the entire the area and force the companies to grant workers’ demands. The mine owners knew this too. Luzerne County police, led by Sheriff James Martin, were openly heard bragging about how many miners they would kill. When the miners reached Lattimer, the police confronted them and ordered them to disperse. When they refused, the police opened fire, killing 19 and wounding about 40. All had been shot in the back. […]


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010Snowe's future: switch parties or perish:

Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe is among the most liberal in the Republican caucus. While her politics have served her well in Blue Maine, she will face inevitable teabagger opposition in the GOP primary when she's up for reelection in the 2012 cycle. And as PPP polling shows, she's got a tough road ahead of her if she wants to remain with Team Red. […]

Pulling a Jeffords would certainly make sense for Snowe. But even better, she should give the Democratic Party serious consideration. If she waits too long, she could suffer a Charlie Crist -- squeezed by the two major parties and devoid of a machine. Like Crist, winning under those conditions isn't impossible, but it's tougher. An earlier switch to the Democratic Party would give her time to prove her bona fides to skeptical Democrats, and give her an easy major-ballot path to reelection.


Tweet of the Day:

During a press conference, O'Mara was asked if he had any advice for Zimmerman, and he answered, "Pay me." http://t.co/...
@billmon1



On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin rounds up an astounding 8 polls on Syria, David C.W. Parker's "Why Democrats Are in Trouble in 2014," and the NYC elections. Cuccinelli's conflict of interest. Clever Republican grifting in WI. Notes from the class war: the two Americas, and a split within one of the two. Pax Dickinson news. A new Van Gogh is discovered. Think Progress: "Study Suggests Southern Slavery Turns White People Into Republicans 150 Years Later." And (just couldn't help it), Sarah Palin and her "grabby" entourage visiting the Oscars' "gifting suite" back in 2010.


High Impact Posts. Top Comments.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Watched the speech and he didn't even froth. (9+ / 0-)

    And I really, really watched.
    Of course, to be absolutely truthful, it could have been my Obamacare glasses.

    Betchu REALLY wanna vote, now.

    by franklyn on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:27:27 PM PDT

    •  I think because he hasn't been defied. (0+ / 0-)

      I think he gets angry, or at least his anger shows, when he doesn't get something that he has chosen to happen. Like when he showed anger over congress not passing that debt limit increase a couple/few years ago after he basically said 'This is how it's gonna be'. They defied him, and he flashed anger on camera.

      If congress votes down military force, that's when I'll look for some frothy anger.

      •  Be great if it was your birthday. Hm? nt (0+ / 0-)

        Betchu REALLY wanna vote, now.

        by franklyn on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:58:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I do want congress to vote "No" on force. & "Yes" (0+ / 0-)

          "Yes" on sending that money to refugee relief.

          If congress votes 'no', we will have a precedent-making moment. Either the president abides by the congress's decision not to grant the executive branch all the powers of making war, thus returning to the constitution as written.... or the president orders the troops to set sail anyway and we know for sure that nothing exists that can trump the office of the president any more.

          The third possibility is that congress votes 'no' and the president orders the troops deployed anyway - and the military recognizes that the congress did not declare war therefore the executive's deployment order is not lawful.

          Of particular note is how I refer to the office and not the current officeholder. The constitutional aspect is an issue that lies beyond party or individuals.

      •  I'm making over $7k a month... (0+ / 0-)

        I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

        WWW.CNN13.COM

  •  USA, not just Harlan County USA (1976) (10+ / 0-)

    gun-thuggery remains in that region

    The coal companies’ private police force, the Coal and Iron Police, were overwhelmed by these numbers and the owners created a posse of English and Irish residents, including many ex-miners. On September 8, about 300-400 miners, largely Slavs and Germans, marched to a mine in the town of Lattimer to support miners who had just joined the UMWA. Expanding the strike to Lattimer would be a huge victory for the miners because it would go a long way to shut down the entire the area and force the companies to grant workers’ demands. The mine owners knew this too. Luzerne County police, led by Sheriff James Martin, were openly heard bragging about how many miners they would kill. When the miners reached Lattimer, the police confronted them and ordered them to disperse. When they refused, the police opened fire, killing 19 and wounding about 40. All had been shot in the back. […]

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:32:09 PM PDT

  •  Dems lost recalls in Colo. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunbro, Eric Nelson, OLinda

    whaa?? I'm never the first one to comment.
    Both  Democratic Colo. state senators have been defeated in recall elections. Bad, sad news.

    •  But not unpredictable. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, Faito

      Guns aren't the red/blue issue that some claim they are. Plenty of blue-voters use 'sniper rifles' that are identical to common hunting rifles to put the most organic meat that exists on the dinner table. Plenty of blue voters receive 'high capacity' magazines in the box with their handgun (that they bought for wildlife control reasons) and that supposedly "high capacity" magazine doesn't hang out the bottom of the handgun even a fraction of an inch.

      These sorts of things are experienced first hand by voters of colorado (and other states) and they react with the same "How dare you" type of indignation that the people of manhattan felt when bloomberg tried to outlaw the "High capacity soda cup" in pursuit of fighting obesity.

      •  But these defeats weren't due to blue voters. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        slouchsock, Faito

        I guess you could say they were due to blue non-voters.  Actually, this can be tied in to the Olympia Snow blurb mentioned above.  These isolated recalls were a prime opportunity for a small number of motivated right wingers to game the system, just like in a GOP primary.  They can win in those special cases, but when all issues are on the table in a general election they will lose because their numbers are small and getting smaller.

  •  976,311 registered users on dKos now. (8+ / 0-)

    Here are the 10 newest registered users on dKos.  Hope to see their comments and diaries here soon!  (If they're not spammers.)

    innatimm
    sweetie1111
    executive119 (user #976,304: spammer)
    Boydlottes (user #976,305: spammer)
    margbarb
    chinatouradvisors (user #976,307: already banned)
    Apostle of Carlin (user #976,308)
    ApostleOfCarlin (user #976,309)
    jmarshall
    MarylandGirl


    And since our society is obsessed with numbers that end in a lot of zeros as milestones, here's a special shoutout to users:
    #976,200: LadybugMichelle (already banned)
    #976,300: RedStateSchmedState (already banned)

    We've added 138 more users in the last 24 hours.  We're no longer being flooded with all those fake users.


    And for your Diary Rescue music pleasure, here's Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons' "Rag Doll".

  •  Ann Coulter... (7+ / 0-)

    called Obama Putin's "monkey".  Even Sean Hannity tried to rein her in after that comment.

    :-|

  •  Sept. 10? ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999

    How can you forget the anniversary of the death of Huey Long?

  •  Things are bad enough, but 2 hrs of Matthews?! nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999

    Betchu REALLY wanna vote, now.

    by franklyn on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:38:58 PM PDT

  •  The Death Toll In The Mines Was Unbelievable (7+ / 0-)

    Some of those small coal towns now have web pages listing the miners that were killed and crippled.  No doubt this is a big help to people working on genealogy.  But the list of names just go on and on like memorial plaques from some great war, even though these towns were only a couple thousand people.

    Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

    by bernardpliers on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:39:35 PM PDT

  •  So about the meat inspections... (11+ / 0-)

    with more feces in them thanks to privatization, I wrote about it on Facebook.  To which the guy who started the Objectivist Club at UCLA (i.e., Ayn Rand fan club) responded:

    Let me get this straight--

    A government program is inefficient and terrible (shocker!), and so it's essentially reneging on doing the job that its existence made impossible for the private sector to do (because who can compete with a coercive monopoly?), and you proceed to blame privatization?

    Wow.

    (I strongly recommend you do some research on the economic incentives that have historically made private safety standards and ratings the most safe and the most reliable in history--standards that no government, with the moral hazards it creates, could possibly hope to live up to.)

    I explained it wasn't properly funded, and to do some research on how private standards were before 1906.  I also noted how he never responded when I brought up the Prisoner's Dilemma years ago, to mathematically prove the concept of a truly "free" market was illogical.  To which he responded:
    Fund a program that gets more money when it fucks up? No thanks. I'd rather have exchanges between people be voluntary, not at the point of a gun.

    I don't remember your question about the Prisoner's Dilemma, but I reject it as an utterly irrelevant thought experiment / analogy for real life.

    As to the private sector undoing the inefficiencies and perverted incentives created by nearly a century of coercive government interference, all I have to say is "Give peace a chance!".

    I encourage you to look up the history of safety and sanitary standards over the last several thousand years, and then tell me that the most rapid development didn't happen in the few centuries leading up to the 1900s. Your accusation of "squat for decades" is woefully misinformed.

    People actually think like this.
    •  So how is his scheme supposed to work? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jeff Y, BruinKid, Eric Nelson, RustyBrown

      Is he talking about industry self-regulation, or do multiple private-standards inspection companies exist who are available to conduct inspections of e.g. meat-packing plants?

      If the latter, how well did that work out for, say, reliance on independent bond-rating agencies in the run-up to 2008?

    •  This, is hilarious (10+ / 0-)

      I was thinking the same thing a few months ago when I was watching a video of a fertilizer plant blowing up half of a town in Texas.

      I was thinking, damn, 'private safety standards' (is that an oxymoron?) are fucking awesome!.....and freedom!.....'Merica' fuck yeah!.....and stuff, also!

      I strongly recommend you do some research on the economic incentives that have historically made private safety standards and ratings the most safe and the most reliable in history--standards that no government, with the moral hazards it creates, could possibly hope to live up to.)

      ------"Load up on guns, bring your friends. It's fun to lose and to pretend."------- Kurt Cobain

      by Jeff Y on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 11:02:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You'd be better off (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruinKid

      slamming your own hand in a car door over and over than trying to argue with Mr. Objectivist Club.  

  •  It's never too late to learn, TY MB for schooling. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, grover, mimi, JeffW, Larsstephens

    ;-)

    Living the austerity dream.

    by jwinIL14 on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:39:59 PM PDT

  •  Andrew Sullivan appeared to bail on Obama (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jeff Y, Eric Nelson

    (again) recently, and after Obama's speech called it "one of the clearest, simplest, and most moving presidential speeches to the nation I can imagine."

    I get whiplash with this guy and his opinions. Impulsivity, thy name is Sullivan.

    "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

    by Wildthumb on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:45:26 PM PDT

  •  My secret hopes telling new user LadyBugMichelle (5+ / 0-)

    that she's got great arms, has now sadly been forever dashed ... "deep sigh."


    Living the austerity dream.

    by jwinIL14 on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:47:53 PM PDT

  •  So people who are saying... (6+ / 0-)

    John Kerry "stumbled" onto a possible solution are ignoring the facts.

    Secretary of State John Kerry may not have been speaking completely off the cuff on Monday when he said Syria could turn its chemical weapons over to the international community in order to avert a U.S. strike. In fact, the proposal appears to have been long in the making, pre-dating the horrific chemical attack in Damascus in late August.

    ....

    A senior administration official confirmed to The Huffington Post that President Barack Obama and Putin first discussed the concept in Los Cabos at the G-20 in June 2012. It was then brought up again at the most recent G-20 in Russia; while world leaders were mingling after the first plenary session, Obama and Putin went to a corner of the room and spoke for nearly half an hour about Syria.

    "Putin broached the idea that had been discussed in [a] previous meeting about reaching an international agreement to remove chemical weapons," said the official. "Obama agreed that could be an avenue for cooperation, and said that Kerry and Lavrov should follow up on the concept to shape a potential proposal. Putin agreed to relay that to Lavrov."

    But hey, if the image of Kerry shooting off his mouth makes you feel better, why not?  I'm reminded of the Galactic Entity from Futurama when he said:
    When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all.
    I'll take it.
  •  coal strike (7+ / 0-)

    fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

    by mollyd on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:50:58 PM PDT

  •  What'a you mean I'm crazy?! (0+ / 0-)

    Who'da thunk that Bashy would admit, in three weeks flat, that he has chemical weapons after decades of denial?
    Knowing him, the way we all seem to, it had to; had to be his conscience. What a guy.
    After that sacrifice, we absolutely must find a way to mold the president into Strutting Death, even if we have to symbolically place Putin on a crucufix, or turn Assad into George Washington 5 minutes after the cherry tree.
    We owe it to somebodys future, oh, yes we do.
    You'll see. You'll see!

    Betchu REALLY wanna vote, now.

    by franklyn on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 11:07:44 PM PDT

  •  My grandfather was an immigrant from Greece & (10+ / 0-)

    worked in the Coal Mines of Utah. Thankfully he wasn't killed in the big Castle Gate Explosion. Most of the miners were married with families. The Utah Fuel Company had fired single workers aprox two weeks prior to the explosion. My mother grew up with many kids who had lost their father, uncle, or brother in that horrific mine explosion.

  •  Yeah the history I was taught was very different (9+ / 0-)

    ..even though my Great great grandfather who I only saw briefly as he stayed pretty much to himself in the small add-on bedroom of my grandfolks house, was a miner who'd lost a hand in the mines and couldn't work after that.

    I remember how small he seemed in real life after seeing pictures of him as a strapping younger miner.

    Still have his miners light. A litttle brass helmet lamp (somewhere) that burned some kind of chemical powder for illumination.

    I'm not sure but my father was born 1926 so my GG father would be somewhere around mid to late 1800's when negotiations with mine owners involved guns and raw power that wealth could hire to beat back workers.

    So it is with sadness now that I remember my own father a life long republican spreading the "lesson" and getting my mother to repeat something she didn't believe in her heart. So a story had to be made up.

    This is how I remember her telling it:  

    Once upon a time unions had their proper place, they made a decent wage possible, and 40 hour work weeks and no more child labor camps ...but now the unions are associaed with the Mafia and they are greedy and want to get paid for standing around and they're thugs that make everything cost too much.

    I believed her. And I'l bet there are many who learned this same story too.

    So another Oligarchy myth that needs busting open, especially with the onslaught coming from the right these days (after 2010 especially - the "owners" have wasted no time taking advantage)

    Thx MB - hot linked - great link too - Guns lawyers and money

  •  I'm a 4th-generation Slovak-American... (9+ / 0-)

    ....and truly believe the Waltons and Koches would do this to people if they think they could get away with it.

    Contrary to Madison Grant and his nativist fever dreams, I am not an idiot, criminal, or any of the horrors he and Lothrop Stoddard claimed Eastern and Southern Europeans were.  Our kind integrated completely into American society.

    The sons of those immigrants joined Army divisions, Navy ships, and Marine divisions, and allowed the Allies to send fresh, healthy troops at the "Master Race" - whose Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, and SS units were full of teenagers, older men, previously-wounded men and POWs.

    (BTW, a Rusyn-American named Michael Strank was the highest-ranking Marine involved in the Iwo Jima flag planting.)

    And you will say the same about Mexican immigrants a couple generations from now, contrary to the fever dreams of Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo.

    9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

    by varro on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 11:46:36 PM PDT

  •  multitasking (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jwinIL14

    I remember when I commented that maybe kos shouldn't have posted at the same time as your Ask Me Anything diary, MB.

    Kos was indignant and said more or less, "what, we can't walk and chew gum at the same time?"

    Apparently, TPTB think we can't watch election returns and post on Night Owls at the same time.

    •  Maybe it's good to be King Kos? OK, prolly not, (0+ / 0-)

      wouldn't take it too personal.  Walk a mile in anyone's moccasins and family, etc... stuff happens.  I used to drop everything when my kid stubbed a toe waking up in middle of night having a bad dream and running into our bed scared.  Stuff happens, I was that kid once, even if if parents in separate beds by then.  Time off work is for that. In some way we're all here to encourage more employers to be understanding, a pay a living wage, insurance, all that American dream foundation we preach.  Please cut Kos & Co. some slack.

      Living the austerity dream.

      by jwinIL14 on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 03:04:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  MB, hope that you'll tie this in with the... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RustyBrown

    ... Rednecks some day... lot's of people don't know the origin of the term... ;)

    Dudehisattva...

    "Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom"

    by Dood Abides on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 03:42:44 AM PDT

  •  My grandfather's family (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    motwor1

    came from Poland and all 3 brothers worked in the PA coal mines.  Then they moved to Michigan.  I wonder if this massacre had anything to do with it?  He would never talk about directly his childhood and young adult years, although we picked up a few things over the years.

  •  My great grandfather worked in the mines in PA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens

    In a different part of the state.  They were Slovaks.  My great grandfather had been conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army, so he married his childhood sweetheart, buried his uniform, and ran away to America - eventually summoning his wife after him.  My grandfather was born in 1897, so his father would have been working at that time.  In a company town - I think he may have been paid in scrip.  The mine may have belonged to Frick (more remembered now for the museums) because family lore is that my grandfather refused to visit the Frick Collection in New York for that reason.  

    At a certain point, my grandfather got black lung and had a hard time making quotas, so my grandfather went down with him into the mines.  That lasted until a truant officer came looking for my grandfather (who must have been 12 or 13 at the time).  The doctor told my great grandfather he couldn't go down into the mines anymore - that he should go farm.  They still had land in the old country and they went back. Some of the children stayed; the younger children (including my grandfather) went back.  Then the Great War came and the Austro-Hungarian army wanted to draft my grandfather.  So he went down to the Embassy in Budapest for an American passport (he'd been born in Pennsylvania) and made his way back to the States (but never back to the mines).

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