Coal Strike Spreads to Pittston Holdings in Kentucky; Wildcat To Ohio
McANDREWS, Ky. (AP) _ A 76-day-old strike against Pittston Coal Group spread to Kentucky today, and a wildcat walkout by more than 20,000 miners in support of the Pittston employees expanded to a seventh state.
Terry Varney, spokesman for a United Mine Workers local, said production stopped at three Eastern Coal Corp. mines in Kentucky as of 12:01 a.m. Eastern is a Pittston subsidiary. About 200 people work at the mines, Varney said.
The union had predicted the Kentucky strike after 1,600 Pittston miners walked off the job in April in Virginia and West Virginia.
More than 20,000 UMW members Sunday were on a sympathy strike begun June 12. Unlike the Pittston walkout, the sympathy strike in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky lacked official union backing.
This morning, miners in Ohio joined the sympathy strike. Workers at three Southern Ohio Coal Co. mines employing 1,100 union miners didn’t show up for the midnight or morning shifts, said Terry Trimper, a company spokeswoman.
There was no immediate comment this morning from the union’s Ohio headquarters.
In Indiana, Old Ben Coal Co. today asked a federal judge to order its 350 miners back to work. The judge did not immediately rule.
Union officials in Nova Scotia and Alabama have said miners there also were likely to stage unsanctioned strikes.
All of Indiana’s 1,750 union miners were off the job for the first time in eight years, while in West Virginia about two-thirds of the state’s 24,000 miners are on a sympathy strike. At least 2,500 wildcat strikers were idled in Pennsylvania, 790 in Virginia, 700 in Kentucky and 200 in Tennessee.
The wildcat strikers say they are off the job to show support for the strike against Pittston, which last week declared negotiations at an impasse. That move allows Pittston to implement its latest contract offer.
At issue in the Pittston strike are benefits and wages. Miners fear that Pittston’s demands, if successful, will be applied by other U.S. companies.
A major rallying point for the strikers is the jailing of three UMW leaders who helped organize the Pittston walkout.
As the Eastern Coal strike began, a picket line was set up at the gates of the company’s main coal production facility at McAndrews. About 20 miners milled about a freshly constructed picket shack.
A State Police cruiser drove by, and the troopers asked the miners how they were doing and if they had any hot coffee. The policemen left, wishing the miners good luck.
All miners wore camouflage and had yellow ribbons pinned to their shirts in a show of solidarity.
Local 5737 President Glenn Stanley said he received a telegram and a phone call from UMW President Richard Trumka on Sunday authorizing the local to strike.
According to Stanley, Trumka said it was time to strike Eastern because the company reportedly was ready to ship a large order of coal.
Calls to Eastern’s office Sunday night went unanswered.