50 Years Ago: Class War in West Virginia

The mine owners in West Virginia were determined to stamp out the movement for organising the workers into the United Mine Workers Union. More than 45,000 miners are already enrolled in this Union, and the organisers were determined to get another 45,000 non-unionists in. These are mostly located in the Logan and Mingo counties, where, it seems, the mine owners are in complete command of the County administration, with the sheriffs also in their pay. As most of the houses tenanted by the miners are owned by the companies, naturally the first thing the latter did was to threaten with eviction every man joining the union.

This they did, utilising for the purpose detectives of the Baldwin-Felt Agency, who are notorious gunmen. Fights were the result, with loss of life on both sides. On one occasion during a march of Union men, they were met by troops and mine guards, which resulted in a battle in the mountains, lasting for days.

Whenever things are not lively enough for the gunmen, they proceed to ‘shoot up’ a town or two in order to strike terror into the hearts of the miners and their families. The State Attorney General himself admits that the mine owners hold the entire machinery of administration in their grip so that the miners in their quest for ‘justice’ find themselves ‘up against it’ at every turn.

From an article Under the Iron Heel by Tom Sala, (Socialist Standard, May 1922).

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