Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Two letters to The Call on Coalfield Wildcat article and The Call’s Response

First Published: The Call, Vol. 9, No. 21, May 6, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Coal wildcats I

There have been some excellent articles in The Call about the miners. However, often times your articles are full of factual errors, conjectures, and wrong conclusions.

Your article, “Wildcats Target Coalfield Firings” [April 14] is an example.

First off, The Call article gives the distinct impression that Consol, U.S. Steel, etc., the “big” operators, aren’t controlling the contract negotiations. Since when?

Your conclusions about the union’s tactic of “settling with the independent operators in order to force the steel company subsidiaries to come to terms has been an effective bargaining tactic of the UMWA since the days of John L. Lewis.” is full of bull.

First, what does it have to do with the strike at the Consol mines? If you are saying that Consol is using the strike to gain more bargaining power in 1981 then you are way off base.

Second, “settling with independent operators” may have been a good tactic in the old days, but not any more. There aren’t too many what you call small independent companies around anymore. And those that are around are going non-union.

Third, The Call tries to paint this picture of how the Four States are “taking up the challenge” and fighting the coal operators just like they used to. However, I feel more can be gained if next time The Call spends more time on what the miners are actually fighting and how they are actually fighting than what The Call writers think the miners are fighting for.

A West Virginia coal miner

Coal wildcats II

Very briefly I’d like to point out some problems in the article in the April 14 issue entitled “Wildcats Target Coalfield Firings.”

There are two factual errors. The first is that the Arbitration Review Board was established in the 1974 contract and Decision 108 was handed down in 1976. Opposition to the board had already begun to grow by the time of the ’78 contract negotiations but was not generally strong enough to in and of itself cause rejection of the last contract offer.

The second error is in the name of the UMWA’s president. It is Sam Church, not Frank Church.

The third problem is a little un-clarity in the final paragraphs when you talk about the BCOA bargaining strategy. Consol’s complaints about smaller operators being too influential was in many respects a cover for a long standing contradiction which has existed between the steel giants and the oil company controlled mines. U.S. Steel was the chief negotiator for the BCOA in the last contract and in the view of Consol was not hard line enough in the negotiations. Under the new arrangement, Consol will be the chief negotiator for the 1981 contract.

The independent operators are smaller only in a relative sense to the conglomerate giants. They consist of companies such as Westmoreland which while independent are still among the top producers in the country. The really small operators actually have little voice in the negotiation process.

Charleston, W.Va.

Our labor editor replies:

The criticisms are helpful. These comments along with other information that could not be included here for reasons of space have given us a better understanding of the struggle in the coal fields and a basis for future articles. Through your continued correspondence and suggestions, we hope to improve our labor coverage.