August 19, 2013 - After posting about the oft forgotten battles (literally!) for worker's rights at the turn of the century in this country, a JTMP supporter passed on this great song about the struggles in the song, "Battle of Blair Mountain", played by Louise Mosrie. Great stuff....watch her perform it live below.
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(Photo: company thugs - 1912 - credit: Charleston Gazette)
August 18, 2013 - Watching one of my favorite shows "Diggers" last night, I was reminded of the actual battles for worker's rights, including guns and all, that took place in this country at the turn of the century. With the Republicans lately attacking unions and eroding worker's rights, I thought I would blog about a hidden history of the United States; something you don't find in any textbooks. They never taught me this when I went to public school.
In our Industrial Age in the 1800s coal miners were horribly exploited even to the point of "company scrip", where workers would get tokens for pay, and be forced to buy only from the company store. Misery and death ruled their lives; from poor working conditions, long hours, death and disease from "black lung", and very low pay while Robber Barons lived in the lap of luxury. Around 1910 the workers had had enough, and started to form unions demanding better pay and better working conditions. Coal companies responded by firing union-sympathizing workers, blacklisting them, evicting from their homes, and even hiring armed thugs who would beat, intimidate and even murder workers trying to organize. The coal companies would bribe government officials to arrest union-sympathizers on flimsy charges and to hire these squads of well-armed thugs.
In West Virginia in 1912, after enduring this brutality for too long, and fired up by Mary Harris "Mother Jones", miners started fighting back. They formed unions and started strikes such as "The Paint Creek-Cabin Creek" strikes. This led to many armed confrontations such as "The Battle of Blair Mountain" where over 10,000 striking coal miners attempting to rescue three workers from a jail and armed with only "squirrel guns" (small caliber), marched to the jail and faced high-caliber rifles and machine guns manned by government agent thugs. When all was said and done, 30 were dead on the coal company thug side, and over 100 coal miners died. 985 miners were indicted for murder, but acquitted by sympathetic jurors. The coal companies won in the short term, it wasn't until the 1930s under FDR's New Deal until workers would get the right to form unions and unions expanded to steel workers and beyond. Now we have Republicans trying to erode all those rights workers have actually fought for. Of course JTMP does NOT suggest or condone violence in any way, but JTMP does urge our supporters to work peacefully through the ballot box and other ways to protect and secure those rights all those men died for back then. We urge you to make sure you constantly tell your lawmakers in the state and federal level that you want them to protect worker's rights, protect unions, and stand up to Republican thugs trying to enact this stupid, "Right to Work" insanity. (photo credit: Blair Mountain Reenactment Society)
Justice Through Music Project and Op-Critical have released another musical activist video, this one makes a statement on the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, and the failure of Massey Energy to protect those coal workers. In a statement Op-Critical said, "Coal Miners Family is dedicated to all those who work in the mines and to all those families who have lost loved ones in the mines. The song and video were inspired by the senseless loss of life at the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster. Massey Energy’s failure to follow safety regulations was the direct cause of that nightmare. We, as Americans, need to make sure that those responsible are held accountable and that similar disasters never happen in the future." Watch below.
OCT 13, 2012 - Activist musician Bruce Springsteen, known for his support of unions and the working man (or woman!), will be campaigning for President Barack Obama in Ohio where unemployment has plummeted due to President Barack Obama's bailout of the auto industry and stimulus funds helping middle class working folks out. He will surely be singing his working class anthem, "We Take Care of Our Own" which Obama uses at his rallies. Read more on NBC News.com here.
MAY 10, 2012 - Photographer Amara Betty Martin was up in New York for the recent May Day march, and she caught so many scenes of the day in rich black and white photography, freezing a moment in life and preserving it, while at the same time making a piece of art out of these moments in history. Below is one of her pictures of an activist musician drumming, his drumming frozen in time, his energy bottled.
You can check out more of Amara's pictures at her Facebook page.