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‘No Meat – No Work!’
Say Miners in West Virginia

(26 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 21, 26 May 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“No Meat – No Work!” This appears to be the slogan of a group of West Virginia miners. According to an Associated Press dispatch, 200 men went on strike at Earling, West Virginia on May 11 because there was no meat in the company store there. By May 17, more than 1,000 men were out.

William Blizzard, vice-president of the United Mine Workers Union, District 17, said that this was the first mine to be closed down because of a lack of meat in company stores but he predicted that “there will be other shutdowns unless this situation is corrected.” In giving the background of the strike situation, Blizzard said, “The men at Earling decided they could not work at their arduous duties unless meat is available ... It is a fact that miners cannot work without sufficient strength-building food.”

Proteins Essential

And the West Virginia miners are right! Men who are doing exhausting physical work need more food – and, most particularly, more protein food – than other sections of the population. Proteins are found in all kinds of cereals, nuts, and vegetables but first-class proteins are found only in foods of animal origin, that is, in meat, eggs and cheese. The West Virginia miners lined themselves up with the best nutritional experts when they decided by their strike action to demand first-class protein food.

For, declared Professor Paul Cannon of the University of Chicago at a nutritional conference in Washington last year, giving hungry people what have been lightly called “energy foods” is not enough. These so-called energy foods – breads, cereals, other cheap carbohydrates – will satisfy hunger Professor Cannon pointed out but they will not rebuild broken-down tissues nor will they build muscles. Along with vitamins and minerals, proteins are essentials in the diet. Proteins are the muscle-building, the tissue-building food.

Best Diet

“Any old protein” will not do, said Professor Cannon. The cheaper vegetable grain and nut protein foods lack one or more of the important chemicals called amino-acids which the body needs for proper health. Only the animal protein foods have all of these essential tissue-building elements. No diet is a good diet unless it includes proper amounts of lean meat, eggs and cheese, Professor Cannon concluded.

Even without the benefit of this sound scientific advice, the miners and other sections of the working class have been, trying to include more high protein foods in their diets. In the depression days, before the outbreak of World War II, there were millions of American workers who could not afford to buy enough lean meat for themselves and their families. This was particularly true of the Negro workers of the South who rarely tasted any other kind of meat than salt pork. Although the average per capita consumption of meat from 1936 to 1939 was 125 pounds, per year, which represents a little more than two pounds per week, over half of the workers averaged only 75 pounds per year which is slightly more than a pound per week.

With the increase in wartime wages, due to the decrease in unemployment and the greatly lengthened work week, the workers have been buying more meat. In 1944, the average per capita meat consumption was 147 pounds. It almost goes without saying that the low-paid workers were not averaging this much meat.

But, as more and more meat is going into the black market workers are again finding it impossible to find meat, at prices they can afford to pay. In many centers, as in Earling, West Va., meat has just about disappeared from the legal meat markets.

They Want Beef

In an article in the May 19 Collier’s, W.B. Courtney writes, “there are today more than 600 pounds of beef cattle grazing on the ranch lands or chomping in the feedlots and stockyards for every man, woman and child in this nation.” And that’s what the miners would like – their 600 pounds apiece of beef! Because it’s beef that the workers want now. Pork is the poor man’s meat. If the workers must eat pork, they want to eat “high up on the hog” – roasts and chops, not fatback and “chitlins.”

Miners “Fighting Mad”

But it’s beef that the miners are dreaming about and talking about and striking for! They want some good prime ribs of beef or maybe a tender sirloin steak or perhaps a juicy beef pot roast. When they know that there’s plenty of beef in the country, but they’re not getting it, it makes them “fighting mad.”

Even as you and I!

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