July 22, 2009

Damp as the dew

The psychologist Erik Erikson once observed that people often try to recreate the first fight in which they felt at home. The first big fight--in terms of economic and social justice--I was able to get involved in at more than a superficial level was the Pittston coal strike of 1989-1990 in support of the United Mine Workers of America.

I didn't have much of an impact on it, but it had a big one on me.

It had very little moral ambiguity, which is a good thing in a major struggle. We should thank the gods for such times.

People usually do better in a struggle that is morally clear. Pittston was basically miners and their families striking against the same coal company that gave us the Buffalo Creek Disaster of 1972, which killed around 125 people, left thousands homeless and wiped out several communities. The main issues in the strike were health care-imagine that--and retiree benefits.

One thing that is sometimes sadly different about current coal controversies is that these often divide people who were once allies. And, given the union busting success of certain coal companies which shall remain nameless, the UMWA is not as strong as it once was at a time when workers need an independent voice.

More on that to come.

BUT WHILE WE'RE AT IT, minimal training by Massey Energy and a related contractor was cited as contributing to the death of coal miner Steven Cain last fall.

HEALTH CARE. WV health care advocates, including yours truly, held a press conference yesterday and released a report on how West Virginia would benefit from health care refom.


NO PRESSURE. Meanwhile, the struggle over health care may be reaching a critical point.

MINIMUM WAGE. Here's a new issue guide on the wage increase from the Economic Policy Institute.


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