The following statement was released Aug. 21 by Amy Husk, Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of Kentucky.
As workers learn about the unfolding fight of coal miners standing up to Blackjewel and the capitalist profit-seekers looking to take over its bankrupt mines in Kentucky, West Virginia, Wyoming and Virginia, they’re moved to join in organizing to spread the word. This is what’s needed — build solidarity for the Blackjewel miners’ fight.
In their greed, the Blackjewel bosses thought they could move the coal the miners in Kentucky had already carved out of the ground and pocket the money themselves. But they underestimated the miners, who blocked the rail lines.
The bosses underestimated the support the miners would win from other working people who see they have a stake in strengthening this fight and organized to offer solidarity. I’ve visited their encampment and urge others to do the same, to organize financial aid and support, and to send messages of solidarity.
Like the big majority of workers today, the Blackjewel miners don’t have a union. But through their activity — standing up to the bosses together, winning solidarity — they are gaining confidence in themselves and those who back them. That’s what union building is — taking initiatives with fellow workers and organizing with others to resist the attacks of the bosses and their government.
Working people often underestimate ourselves. We face disdain from the bosses’ politicians, who call us “deplorables.” But in the process of fighting together, our view of what we are capable of changes. We gain self-assurance to use our power and learn how to fight in a disciplined way. We begin to gain class-consciousness, and look for others facing attacks we can act to support.
In their drive to maximize their profits, the capitalists constantly try to squeeze more out of us by going after our wages and working conditions.
There are far less union miners today than past decades — none at all in Kentucky. The government in Washington keeps stalling on guaranteeing miners’ pensions as more mine bosses declare bankruptcy. And the scourge of black lung is once again on the rise. Karl Marx, more than 150 years ago, noted that the only social power working people have is their numbers. But, he said, “the force of numbers, however, is broken by disunion” that is “created and perpetuated by their unavoidable competition among themselves.”
By fighting together for everything from immediate necessities like higher wages and safety on the job to an amnesty for fellow workers who don’t have papers the government recognizes, we will begin to see ourselves, as Marx said, as “champions and representatives of the whole working class.”
Organizing workers to defend ourselves from the bosses today is a necessary first step along the road to building unions and a working-class movement that fights for all the oppressed and exploited. We prepare for bigger struggles as the crisis of capitalism deepens in the coming years.
Organize solidarity with the Blackjewel miners!