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Ria Stone

Mine Strike Hits Terrorism

White Miners Join Protest Strike Against Shooting of Negro

(August 1942)

From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 35, 31 August 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Five hundred miners went on strike the other day in Docena, Ala. Two hundred and fifty of them stopped work and as many more refused to enter the mines for the next shift when word came that one of their number had been killed by the bullet of a company man. No coal was dug, no cars were filled and no torches were lit as the men sought a (means to avenge their brother.

Docena, Ala., is a company town. The workers there draw their pay for sweating in the mines and factories of the Tennessee Coal & Iron Co. (TC&I). They buy their merchandise from the company store, rent their shacks from the company and after working for years are usually in debt to the company.

The TC&I maintains a baronial rule over the Dacena workers and their families by dividing the white workers from the colored workers, paying Negroes one-half as much as whites and separating the black side of Docena’s shanty town from the white. Still, at the entrance to the mines the company has put up a sign which reads: “This plant is a part of the arsenal of democracy.”

Into the Docena mines some time ago came Jack Bloodworth, a Negro shift leader who had been up around the West Virginia and Pennsylvania mines and who knew that workers didn’t always have to take any guff from the company. The bosses called Bloodworth “sassy” because, said they, he was setting a “bad example” to other Negro workers who might also get it into their heads to stand up for their rights. And so Company Paymaster Gray, for one, used to put Bloodworth “in his place” by little annoyances – for example, making him wait until the very last before getting his pay.

A couple of weeks ago Bloodworth made his last trip to the pay window before being inducted into the Army. This time Gray decided to annoy Bloodworth by deducting 50 cents from his pay for a work badge which Gray claimed Bloodworth had lost. Bloodworth called Gray a liar and, to avoid a fight, started off for home without his pay. But Gray was not content to let the matter rest there. He summoned another deputy and together, they overtook Bloodworth and tried to put him under arrest for disturbing the peace.

Today Bloodworth is dead, shot by Gray in the heart. The coroner in Docena, whose bread is buttered by the company in this company town, called the murder “justifiable homicide.” But Jack Bloodworth’s fellow workers in Docena didn’t agree. They knew the killing was boss murder and so they went on strike, demanding that the killer be discharged and brought to trial and that the white gun-toting deputies be ousted.

The men didn’t win their strike. They didn’t get organizational aid from their union leaders, and they had to go back to work to feed their families. But they haven’t forgotten how and why their brother was killed.

After Docena will come further developments in the class struggle between bosses who will go as far as murder to get rid of a militant worker, and workers who are ready to use their best weapon, the strike, to fight boss terrorism and protect their economic rights.

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