The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 26      July 18, 2011

(front page)
Coal, oil field workers discuss
safety and boom-and-bust cycle
Militant/John Naubert
Selling Militant outside coal mine in Kemmerer, Wyoming, June 24. A total of 177 subscriptions were sold during recent two-and-a-half-week effort in coalfield regions of eastern and western United States.

FARMINGTON, New Mexico—“Why do you call that paper the Militant?” asked a Navajo woman, who works at the Four Corners power plant near here when two socialist workers stopped by her house to talk about subscribing.

In the early days of the labor movement in the United States, we replied, “militant” was commonly used to describe the most self-sacrificing working-class fighters, and the Militant newspaper has been a socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people since the late 1920s. With that explanation, her initial suspicion turned to curiosity.

After a wide-ranging exchange of views about immigration and the militarization of the U.S. borders, the impact of the capitalist economic crisis on working people, how the Militant has supported coal miners in the fight for safety, and why socialists decided to sell the paper in this area, she said, “Welcome to the reservation.” She got a single issue of the paper and said she would consider subscribing.

Over the past three weeks, members of the Socialist Workers Party have met hundreds of workers in coalfield areas across the country eager to discuss how working people can defend ourselves and fight for political power to end capitalist rule along with its wars and social crises that are devastating workers’ lives. Some have welcomed our support for the right of women to choose abortion and for legalization of immigrant workers, while we’ve debated these questions with others.

In late June teams with the Militant visited the coal and oil fields of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Wyoming. Members of the Socialist Workers Party sold introductory subscriptions to 42 workers, along with 93 single copies of the paper and six books offered at a special discount to new readers.

Those results bring to 177 the total subscriptions sold during the two-and-a-half-week effort in the coalfield regions, which also included Alabama, southwestern Pennsylvania, southern West Virginia, southern Illinois, and Utah. More than 325 single issues of the paper were sold, along with 35 books.

At the portal of the McKinley Mine on the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona, 15 coal miners stopped to pick up the paper, and one bought an introductory subscription. The mine owners are in the process of closing the mine and have already laid off some 300 workers. Some of these laid-off miners are now working at a mine in Kemmerer, Wyoming, where another team of socialist workers selling the paper met a few of them. Eleven copies of the Militant and one subscription were sold at the Kemmerer Mine.

In Rangely, Colorado, most of the dozen subscriptions sold were to young workers with jobs in the “oil patch.” One worker, who bought a subscription outside his apartment after a long day of work, described the grueling pace of the job, as well as the boom-and-bust cycle. The oil companies sometimes push the mostly young workforce 70 or more hours a week, and then cut hours to the point where workers can barely make it.

Many younger workers in the oil fields said they are making $12-$14 an hour for dangerous and difficult work. Many told us they get no health coverage.

We learned through experience to sell later in the day in order to reach more of these workers coming home from the job. Going door to door with the paper earlier in the day, the percentage of workers we met who are retired or unemployed was considerably higher.

Mining and oil extraction companies are hiring in the western coalfield areas. Workers point to a relentless push for production, as the companies try to rake in as much profit as possible while there is a market for energy products—safety be damned. Meanwhile, as in other states, public workers face mounting job losses and cuts in pay, as local governments put the burden of the capitalist crisis on the backs of working people.

Following up on the spring subscription campaign and the coalfield teams, Socialist Workers Party branches are organizing discussions with those who are interested in revolutionary working-class politics. As SWP members get in touch with these workers about renewing their subscriptions, we are talking with them about joining us in political events, bringing solidarity to union picket lines, participating in social protests. We’re working with some of them to organize a discussion about socialist perspectives with coworkers or friends in their neighborhoods or cities and together to visit other workers to talk about the Militant.
Related articles:
Party branches take up where circulation director left off
Canadian miners’ union to investigate workers’ deaths
Workers in Illinois coalfields snatch up ‘Militant’
China: 3 die, dozens trapped in coal mines  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home