UMW Rallies During ‘Cat and Mouse’ Game
DEHUE, W.Va. (AP) _ Union miners shut down a coal plant employing non-union workers when more than 500 supporters from three states marched up an Appalachian hollow in the union’s largest show of strength since June.
″We want to send a clear message that we’re not going away,″ Bob Phalen, president of UMW District 17, said Friday. ″When injustice is being inflicted upon our brothers and sisters, we’ll be there to support them.″
The United Mine Workers want Rum Creek Coal Sales Inc. to stop using non- union contractors to operate a preparation plant and the truck lines serving it. Union members had held the jobs until last August.
The miners chanted ″UMWA all the way″ as they walked up Rum Creek Hollow, blocking both lanes of traffic behind a West Virginia State Police escort. Many were upset that a federal court judge ordered miners off a private bridge leading to the plant and limited the number of pickets to 15.
No violence was reported.
Rum Creek, which the past four days had ordered its coal trucks to smash through vehicles left in their path, told federal and state police they would not attempt to run coal Friday.
″It’s a cat-and-mouse game,″ Phalen said. ″We know who the rat is.″
The march and subsequent rallies at the picket site and a union camp were the largest gatherings of UMW miners since June, when a rally in Charleston attracted more than 1,000 miners, the union said.
The A.T. Massey Coal Co., Rum Creek Coal’s parent company, credited police for keeping the peace.
The June rally in Charleston triggered wildcat strikes the next day. During June and July, more than 43,000 miners in 10 states walked off their jobs in violation of other union contracts. Many took days off work on Friday.
Miners struck Rum Creek in mid-August after it re-opened the preparation plant with non-union contractors.
State troopers had advised the miners not to block the public road.
The union already was under court order not to block an adjacent private road leading to the plant. Many of the miners said they were prepared to be arrested.
Two UMW members were charged on Wednesday with assaulting federal officers and released Thursday. Three other miners have been charged with violating a court order.
The Rum Creek strike is not related to the 9-month-old strike against the Pittston Coal Group, which was tentatively settled Jan. 1. The proposed pact has not yet been submitted for ratification by the rank and file.