MCCALLA, Ala. — A third weekly solidarity rally for 1,100 United Mine Workers of America union members on strike at Warrior Met Coal in nearby Brookwood drew several hundred miners, family members, union retirees and other supporters to Tannehill State Park here May 5. The strike has entered its second month.
UMWA coal miners who work at Warrior Met’s two underground mines, coal preparation plant and central shop struck April 1 when their contract expired. They’re fighting to regain ground lost in 2016 when major concessions in wages, benefits and working conditions were forced on the union. Jim Walter Resources, the former owner, went belly up and its creditors used a federal bankruptcy court to demand union concessions or they would close the mine.
UMWA President Cecil Roberts spoke, along with William Londrigan, president of the Kentucky AFL-CIO; West Virginia American Federation of Teachers President Fred Albert; and others.
“Stay strong,” Seth Skalnit, from United Steelworkers Local 1013 at U.S. Steel’s pipe mill in Fairfield, told the strikers. Other unions “in this community have labor contracts coming up and we know [the bosses] are watching like sharks — hoping there’s blood in the water. We’re standing with you.” Members of Local 1013 have been visiting the Warrior Met picket lines to show solidarity and gather food and other supplies to aid the strike.
“It means a lot to us when other union members come to the picket lines,” Lawrence Green, who works underground at Warrior Met’s No. 7 mine, told the Militant May 8.
Some strikers are having to get other jobs, while continuing to staff the picket lines for at least two shifts a week. “I work on cars, so I can do that while still picketing, to bring in some extra income,” Green said. A few people have gotten jobs at the UMWA-organized Oak Grove Mine, in nearby Bessemer.
“The company is doing their best to starve us out,” UMWA member Steve Mote told the Militant May 8. He works at the coal preparation plant as a washer control room operator.
Some miners’ families have formed a support group to help deal with medical bills and other problems workers face during the strike. Chelsea Prestridge, whose husband is on strike, told WVTM TV in Birmingham that her family had a dental emergency that left them owing thousands in medical bills. The UMWA is paying for major medical insurance for strikers and their families, but that doesn’t cover many medical expenses families face.
The UMWA has set up a Strike Aid Fund to back the miners, who also receive weekly strike benefits. All donation checks should be made out to UMWA 2021 Strike Aid Fund and sent to UMWA Strike Aid Fund, P.O. Box 513, Dumfries, VA 22026. Messages of support can also be sent to UMWA District 20, 21922 Hwy. 216 (Miners’ Memorial Parkway), McCalla, AL 35111. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel.: (205) 477-7500. Fax: (205) 477-0004.
Maurice Williams contributed to this article.