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The Death of the 'Good Union Job': Plight and Protest of Thousands of Mine Workers Barely Noticed By Mainstream Media

If companies can break the UMWA, heaven help the fast food workers.

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 "What's at stake at Patriot is the union," says Jan Patton, now approaching her 90s, a miner's widow in Clincho VA. "I know what a difference the union makes because I watched what my father and grandfather went through before they had one." 
 In 1989, thousands of miners, miners wives, church groups and community supporters lay down in the streets at the entrance to Pittston's mines to the block the coal trucks and world media paid attention. Rev Jim Lewis, former rector at St. John's Episcopal Church in Charleston was among those arrested then in a struggle which was ultimately mostly victorious.
This spring, their benefits on the chopping block once more, miners and their supporters have been lying down in the streets again, but this time in front of the federal court house in St. Louis. The protests are barely registering in the media.
Cecil Roberts, the President of the UMWA, who was a leader in the Pittston strike was one of a dozen protestors arrested in St. Louis in the latest peaceful protest Monday. Rev. Lewis was arrested in a protest late last month. 
"In comparison to 1989, I looked over the crowd and saw people much older, weaker, in a weaker environment, economically and in terms of movements," said Lewis who was recently part of a fact finding mission by religious leaders which produced a report, "Schemes from the Board Room."  
 If the plan is approved,  the report estimates that more than 23,000 retired miners and their families, will lose their benefits and that lifetime guarantee. The company’s proposing a trust fund instead --  it’ll start at $15 million and go up to a maximum of $300 million. That, says the United Mineworkers of America is miserably inadequate. It also sets a dangerous precedent.
What’s happening in St. Louis doesn’t look like a coal-field war but the same things are at stake:  reciprocity, respect, fair play.  If the companies can break the UMWA, heaven help the fast food workers.


Laura Flanders is the host and founder of "GRITtv with Laura Flanders." She is the author of "Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species" and "Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians." A regular contributor for MSNBC, Flanders has appeared on shows from "Real Time with Bill Maher" to "The O’Reilly Factor." For more information, visit

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