Picket Wounded at Coal Mine; UMW Faces Court Challenges
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ A picket was shot and slightly wounded at a non-union coal mine today, and some of the 42,000 miners off the job in 10 states say they were theatened with violence if they returned to work under court order.
Judges in at least four states have ordered the miners back to work. Today was the 10th day of wildcat walkouts in support of 1,900 miners on strike against Pittston Coal Group Inc. since April 5.
Jamie Blankenship, 18, the son of a disabled miner, was grazed in the head as he picketed at Hampden Coal Co., a strike-closed mine in West Virginia. Blankenship, who is not a miner, was treated at a hospital and released.
Blankenship was believed to be the first person wounded by gunfire since the unauthorized walkouts began. Previously, others had been hurt by rocks.
State Police said no arrests were made. Officials at Hampden Coal did not immediately return calls.
A UMW official said Wednesday that he sees no quick end to the unauthorized walkouts, citing millions of dollars in fines that courts have levied against the union.
″Our members feel like they’re fighting for our whole organization,″ said Howard Green, a UMW international executive board member from Charleston. ″They feel the courts are being used as a means for destroying our organization.″
Green said miners have shown up for work but have encountered pickets and refused to cross the line.
″I’ve been warned by pickets, ’We’ll find out where you live,‴ miner Ted Sanson said. ″The judge didn’t understand this part - the fear. Are those marshals going to be there when I get off work?″
Consolidation Coal Co. is seeking back-to-work orders in north-central West Virginia and said it planned to take similar action in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois.
The company told a federal judge Wednesday that it was losing $500,000 a day at its north-central operations alone.
Tazewell County, Va., Circuit Judge N.E. Persin on Wednesday fined the union $300,000, saying it was responsible for picket line misconduct that resulted in coal trucks being hit by objects.
One Alabama company has asked the courts to order miners back to work, and two others have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. One company, Jim Walters Resources, said it is losing $600,000 a day.
The union already has been assessed fines of $3 million in Virginia, and a federal judge Wednesday fined six West Virginia union locals $2,500 each for defying a back-to-work order.
West Virginia police said shots were fired Wednesday afternoon at a security guard shack at the Logan-Mingo Mine Co. office near Gilbert. Guards were in the shack at the time but no one was injured and no arrests were made.
In a separate strike, a Raleigh County, W.Va., judge on Wednesday ordered county and state law enforcement officers to begin round-the-clock patrols at a New Beckley Mining Corp. operation near Glen Daniel to prevent violence.
About 130 miners who have been on strike there since January in a contract dispute have joined with Pittston miners in several rallies.
According to union and industry officials, the estimated number of miners involved in unauthorized walkouts Wednesday are: West Virginia, 16,000; Illinois, 8,000; Alabama, 5,000; Ohio, 2,660; Pennsylvania, 6,600; Indiana 1,750; Kentucky, 1,500; Virginia, 755; Missouri, 350; and Tennessee, 200.