Historic labor site under attack

Blair Mt. plaqueThe historic site of “the largest armed confrontation in American labor history” is in danger of being strip-mined, say the United Mine Workers and the Friends of Blair Mountain in a Charleston Gazette-Mail news report dated August 24, 2015.

The Blair Mountain Battlefield is where 10,000 union coal miners battled company guards and police who tried to stop a union drive in Logan and Mingo Counties, West Virginia. Part of the struggle was vividly depicted in the 1987 movie Matewan.

Some historians argue that the battle of Blair Mountain was the stimulus behind the pro-union Wagner Act (1935). The act allowed West Virginia miners and many others to organize into unions.

Coal companies want to resume mining in the area, but the UMW and others are fighting to preserve “vital historical resources” and to protect the regional environment from further deterioration.

There is a need to protect “previously unidentified significant archeological properties,” UMW lawyer Laura P. Karr said, and mountaintop mining threatens the historic and natural beauty of the area.

Companies that want to restart the mining are Aracoma Coal Co., a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources; Mingo Logan Coal, a subsidiary of Arch Coal; and WPP LLC, a coal-leasing company with offices in Delaware.

For more information on the Battle of Blair Mountain and the efforts to stop the strip mining of Blair Mountain visit http://archive.archaeology.org/1201/features/blair_mountain_coal_activism_west_virginia.html . Also see http://portside.org/2015-09-01/fight-preserve-blair-mountain-labor-history-continues .