[Marxism] Bloody Harlan
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 24 07:24:38 MST 2010
Harpers Magazine, December 2010
[Testimony] THE BATTLE OF CRUMMIES CREEK
From interviews included in They Say in Harlan County: An Oral
History, by Alessandro Portelli, published last month by Oxford
University Press. On April 15, 1941, during a national coal
miners’ strike, four striking miners entered the company store at
the Crummies Creek Coal Co., in Harlan County, Kentucky, and were
killed by a mine employee with a machine gun. Locals have long
claimed, though it has never been confirmed, that an ensuing
gunfight resulted in additional deaths on both sides.
Granny Hager: Crummies Creek. Now, there was killing there and I
can’t tell you just how many were killed. You see, I used to have
all of that down, but it got washed away so many times, and burned
out. I don’t know all that did happen, but they really had a
battle up there. I think there was five killed. They wanted the
scabs to go on to work, and they wanted to run the union men away,
you see. And that is what started the battle. Now that was the
roughest place we had in Harlan County.
Plennie Hall: The day before the battle, I went into the office
and I told Mr. Johnson, “Mr. Johnson,” I says, “won’t you sign the
union? It would be good for everybody, to be satisfied with
everything.” And he said, “Hell no”; he wouldn’t under no
circumstances. And the next day, the union come up there to stop
them from working.
Becky Simpson: Six years old. Me and my mother always walked from
Cranks Creek to Crummies to the commissary with my dad’s paycheck.
They had a bunch of pickets up at the commissary. This big
bald-headed guy, they called him Big Jim Black Hair, he was a
big-league ballplayer, he told my mother, “What’re you doing here
with this child today? Get what little you’re going to and get
this child back out, there’s gon’ be trouble today.” As we was
leaving the commissary, they was rolling up these big machine
guns, that they could open up the double doors and shoot out. So
me and Mommy is walking back up the mountain, we heared the
shooting start. And they just mowed the men down.
Ben Campagnari: Now, we were running, and we had a pegleg man. You
wouldn’t believe it. Going down that railroad track, and he’s
hitting about four ties at a time; and he outrun half of the
people that had good legs, and we was all a-running because they
was cutting down with the machine gun, or trying to. And I said:
“If I ever go on a picket line again, I’ll go with protection.” We
died just like ducks.
Hazel Leonard: And that night, the thugs that lived, they carried
all their dead men out of there and hauled them to the top of
Crummies mountain, and burned them up. There was a place there,
that they called the Halfway House, it was just a dive, you know,
just for men to drink and hang out at. And they sold booze and
everything, you know what I mean. So they hauled all these people
out there, that had got killed that night— the thugs. They hauled
them up that mountain to that place and then they burned it. They
burned them up.
Plennie Hall: Three weeks later I was over there getting a payday,
and there was a drainpipe runs down there, and somebody that
crawled in that drainpipe and died, the dogs pulled out some of
his bones. There never was no more said about it. I wondered about
who that could have been, or where they were from.
Harlan, Kentucky mine worker killed, three injured in separate
By Naomi Spencer
24 November 2010
A contract mine worker in Harlan County, Kentucky was killed early
Tuesday morning after he lost control of a coal truck on site at
the Rex Coal Strip Mine #1. Rhett Mosley, 32, of Perry County was
driving into the pit when the heavy truck rolled out of control on
the steep grade of the pit mine.
According to the preliminary report from the federal Mine Safety
and Health Administration, Mosley either attempted to jump out or
was thrown from the vehicle, and the truck struck an embankment
and overturned onto him. No other details have been released and
the mine has been closed while the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety
investigates. In investigations of similar accidents over the past
decade, MSHA has found that poorly maintained brakes and
over-capacity loads have been frequent contributing factors.
The relatively small mine has not seen a fatality since the Rex
Coal Company began operations in 2006. However, since 2008 coal
tonnage has quadrupled at the mine and citations have increased.
Although the pit mine employs only 19 workers, the site has
produced more than 61,000 tons of coal this year.
In the last two years, although MSHA lists only nine inspections,
the Rex Strip Mine #1 has been cited 50 times, including 14
serious and substantial violations. Most of the citations were
accompanied by fines that remain unpaid—in fact, none of the fines
for serious violations have been paid.
The death of Mosley brings to 47 the number of coal mining deaths
this year in the US, 40 of them in Kentucky and West Virginia. In
all, coal and other mineral mining accidents have claimed the
lives of 66 mine workers across the country.
Accidents have been on the rise as operators strive for higher
production rates. China has recently projected it will require a
3.8 billion ton increase in coal annually, triggering speculative
activity on metallurgical coke and bituminous coal—found in
abundance in the Appalachian coalfields—as well as frenzied
efforts at mergers and acquisitions by the large operators.
On October 27, James Jeffrey Falk, a 39-year-old underground miner
in western Kentucky, was killed when he was struck by a shuttle
car loaded up with coal. Falk was a continuous mining machine
operator at the River View Coal Mine in Union County, owned by
coal giant Alliance Resources.
The Rex mine fatality comes less than a week after an accident in
another Harlan County mine injured three miners. According to the
Kentucky Office of Mine Safety, a personnel carrier and a supply
hauler collided during operations in the Abner Branch Rider mine,
operated by Bledsoe Coal and owned by the James River Coal Company.
The vehicles may have been running on the same rail at the time of
the accident, but neither safety officials nor the company has
given further details. The three miners were hospitalized, with
two requiring an airlift to Holston Valley Medical Center in
Kingsport, Tennessee. The mine reopened shortly after the accident.
The Abner Branch mine has seen a series of accidents. On January
22, 29-year-old continuous mining machine operator Travis Brock
was crushed by a “rib roll,” the collapse of a mine wall. A
subsequent MSHA investigation found that safety violations
directly contributed to Brock’s death. However, the mine has
continued to operate at breakneck pace while racking up violations.
Since the beginning of the year, the Abner mine has been cited 175
times, including many for serious and substantial violations. The
company has not paid a single fine, which in 2010 amounted to
MSHA lists numerous roof falls and rib rolls that could easily
have resulted in more fatalities. The database offers a glimpse at
the unsafe conditions and frenzied pace of extraction in the mine.
On October 8, for example, a roof fall measuring 30 feet wide, 25
feet long, and 10 feet thick was recorded. Just two days before,
another roof fall of similar size was logged. At least five others
occurred before those in 2010, including one incident on June 15
in which a piece of rock fell on an employee as he was being
transported to the surface, striking him in the face.
MSHA has designated the Abner Branch mine as “meeting MSHA
potential pattern of violations criteria” based on the number of
citations between September 1, 2009 and August 31 of this year.
MSHA released a list November 19 of 13 coal mines to which it had
issued 286 serious and substantial citations and closure orders
during October. Among them, the Left Fork Mining Company’s
Straight Creek #1 mine in Bell County, Kentucky was the worst,
with 92 closure orders in the past year. A closure order is only
issued in cases where potential disaster is imminent.
During one inspection of the Straight Creek mine on October 29,
MSHA inspectors had to seize the mine telephones so that
management could not forewarn underground foremen of their visits.
They found multiple violations on coal dust accumulation and
venting that posed immediate danger.
Other mines in the state found to have egregious violations were
Vision Coal Inc.’s Mine #2 in Letcher County; White Star Mining’s
White Star #1 in Pike County; James River Coal Co.’s Mine #68 in
Perry County; and Dodge Hill Mining Co. LLC’s Dodge Hill Mine #1
in Union County.
MSHA has also filed for a court-ordered shutdown of Massey
Energy’s Freedom Mine #1 in Pike County over ventilation problems,
inadequate roof supports, coal dust build-up, and other dangers.
In the past two years, the mine has been cited nearly 2,000 times.
An inspector for the region filed an affidavit November 3 after
discovering a high concentration of unvented methane gas in an
active section of the mine in what he described as the “most
volatile range.” Former MSHA official Tony Oppegard told the
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “You have a mine that is by all
indications just as bad, or worse, than Upper Big Branch.”
Massey has also been cited for creating an “imminent danger” after
two explosions earlier this month at the Twilight surface mine in
Boone County, West Virginia.
MSHA has been striving to appear more aggressive toward flagrant
violators since the April 5 explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch
Mine in West Virginia, which took the lives of 29 miners. However,
in its 33-year history, the agency has never once classified a
mine as having a pattern of violations.
More information about the Marxism