The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 24      July 4, 2011

‘Workers need to get
together and stand up’

In mid-June members and supporters of the Socialist Workers Party and Communist Leagues in several countries sold subscriptions to the Militant in coalfield areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. Going door to door and visiting mine portals, they talked with hundreds of miners and other workers.

As of June 21 they had signed up 88 subscribers to the paper and sold 139 single copies. In addition, workers in these areas bought 19 books on revolutionary politics: 5 each of The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions by Jack Barnes and Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs; 4 copies of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power and The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning, both by Barnes; and Is Socialist Revolution in the U.S. Possible? by Mary-Alice Waters.

Below are reports from three teams.

BROOKWOOD, Alabama—Working people here face rising unemployment, now up to 9.6 percent. State officials blame the April tornados, which killed more than 200 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. But workers we met also pointed to layoffs of 40 percent of bankrupt Jefferson County’s workforce.

“Many people invited us into their homes,” said team member Laura Anderson. John Burt, a retired miner in Graysville, said he’d been fighting discrimination in the mines against Black and female miners all his life. “You’re working to unite people,” he said after subscribing. “The harder the bosses push, the more they get. And then they push harder.”

We had several discussions of Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law, which takes effect September 1. Some workers agreed with the Militant headline calling for legalization of undocumented workers. Others said the undocumented are partly responsible for unemployment. A Bessemer woman said her husband, a construction worker originally from Mexico, has taken a big wage cut due to attacks on immigrants. “I’ll do anything to fight this discrimination,” she said as she signed up for a subscription.

A young woman in Brookwood, the wife of a miner at a Jim Walters mine, subscribed and got The Changing Face of U.S. Politics. She said she’s appalled by restrictions on a woman’s right to abortion. “We’re the ones who give birth and raise a child, we should be the ones to decide,” she said.

Twenty-four workers in Alabama bought subscriptions and 35 picked up single issues.

WAYNESBURG, Pennsylvania—“I’m living paycheck to paycheck,” said Gary Sine, a water company worker here. “We need to get together and stand up, but not everybody’s ready to do that yet.”

Sine bought a subscription to the Militant and a copy of The Changing Face of U.S. Politics. Pointing to photos in the book of protesting coal miners and auto workers in the 1980s and ’90s, he said, “That could be me.”

“Some of my current coworkers would be interested in this paper,” Sine said and took some subscription blanks to give them.

The team sold 20 subscriptions to the Militant and 32 single copies here and in other towns in Greene County.

A truck driver told us at first he wasn’t interested. But he changed his mind when we said the Militant is a working-class paper that explains the need to take power out of the hands of the rich. At the company where he works, 10-hour days and longer are routine, he said, “but the company doesn’t pay time and a half for overtime. They say trucking companies are exempt.” He bought a single.

A Vietnam veteran who worked 17 years at the Cumberland coal mine, and is now a transit worker, subscribed after telling team members he opposes the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jessica Bellish, whose father was a miner who died from black lung disease, also got a subscription. She said she was glad to see a newspaper that defends a woman’s right to choose abortion and covers workers struggles and the fight against police brutality.

CHARLESTON, West Virginia—Shelley Moore, who lives near the town of Van here in the southern part of the state, told Militant team members she had participated in a recent march of several hundred to Blair Mountain to save the historic site and stop the coal bosses’ plans to begin mountaintop removal. In 1921 an armed battle took place on the mountain pitting 10,000 coal miners fighting to organize the mines against the U.S. Army.

Moore said her father had been a coal miner for 30 years and she supports the United Mine Workers union “100 percent.” But the coal companies should not be able to blow up Blair Mountain with no regard for the dangers it causes to working people in the area. (In the name of saving jobs, top UMWA officials have joined with coal companies in backing mountaintop removal, despite the resulting flooding, pollution, and other devastation.) After subscribing, Moore asked if the Militant had an office in this part of West Virginia—“We need you here.”

Other workers we met supported coal company plans, saying it means more mining jobs. But these workers gave a hearing to supporters of the Militant when we explained that working people have to fight the capitalist system that tells us we have to “choose” between jobs and the conditions in which we live and work.

Socialist workers sold 38 subscriptions to the Militant, 70 single copies, and 7 books in coalfield towns in this area.

Entering West Dunbar and Nitro—“chemical valley,” as it is often called—the smells from the plants were strong. Many outfits like Monsanto and Union Carbide have closed down or laid off workers in recent years, leaving working people in the area facing tough times. “Many workers told us about the impact of the economic crisis on their lives,” said team member Osborne Hart.

“A mother and daughter in West Dunbar who got a subscription invited two of us to sit on the porch and talk,” Hart said. “The daughter and her family just moved back in with her mother because she couldn’t make ends meet.

“After we said these conditions face millions and that’s why the working class needs to take political power, the mother commented, ‘Yes, we need a revolution in this country.’”
Related articles:
Coal contract gives up pension for new hires
For ranks, there’s no peace with mine bosses
‘We’ll stay in touch with our new readers!’
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