Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Workers' Memorial Day 2008

Yesterday was Workers' Memorial Day, so I wrote this about coal mining in southwestern Indiana:

Some of my people were coal miners. I think about all of my great-grandfathers were. It ended there for the most part. My aunt married a coal miner though to continue the tradition. He was a union coal miner for over thirty years. He was a blue collar worker married into a family that had become white collar and I admired him for it. I remember when I was a kid I'd hear whispers of him being arrested for picket line violence. He'd come home with black eyes and busted lips in the late 70s and early 80s.

My hometown had been built on coal mining, but most of the Indiana mines closed in the 80s. My uncle had to drive a long way south to work and technically worked in Illinois as he mined underneath the Wabash River. By the 90s, the mining companies had succeeded in closing all of the union mines in Indiana. My uncle's union went on strike last spring at their mine just across the border in Illinois. On the first day of the strike, the company closed its operation citing old equipment. Hundreds of union coal miners lost their good paying jobs.

Indiana does not have a single union coal miner working within the state, but the mines are open again and doing better than ever. All of the coal is in southwestern Indiana, which just happens to be the poorest part of the state. There are young men who jump at the chance to risk their lives for 15 dollars an hour. My youngest cousin is one of them. He dropped out of college a couple of years ago because he has a tendency to collect baby mamas and needed a paycheck. He worked at a factory for a while, but actually paid money to attend "mining school". He's now a probationary miner and works at this dangerous job for around 15 dollars an hour. He is not in a union and probably doesn't even understand what one is. I have to wonder if he'll be any better off than my coal mining great-grandfathers were around one hundred years ago.


Anonymous Del "Abe" Jones said...


It's too bad we have more heroes
Who gave their lives in selfless ways
Trying to save the lives of others
After toiling many nights and days.

The mountain “bumped” with warnings
But those Miners, paid no heed
Although they must have been fearful
They just continued to proceed.

It's a very dangerous job at best
For those who work beneath the ground
With toxic fumes and bad machinery
And Earth's dreaded rumbling sound.

But, for those who go as saviors
After the roof falls to the floor
There's not enough can be said about
These who risk limb and life and more.

Their loved ones can take some solace
Although it will never ease the pain
Just knowing these men gave their all
Heroes, one and all, that's plain.

One Lady wrote words upon a note
Said, most all people in her family
From past and present, all were miners
For most there, that's how it seems to be.

Most mining towns are just like that
The mine is like it's heart and soul
And there's always the feared knowledge
That Mother Nature takes Her toll.

And sadly, this won't be the last time
Folks will be lost while trying to save
Their Brethren who are trapped below
Down in some dark, man made cave.

Del “Abe” Jones


Another coalminer’s daughter (and son)
Has heart and soul beneath the ground
With tears and hopes and prayers
That their lost Daddies will be found.

Hoping for some great Miracle
Not only found, but safe and well
One more Escape from the Hazards
That Stories and the Folklore tell.

A Dangerous Job at its best
And for some the only one
To take care of their Family
It’s one Chore that Must be Done.

We all know the Historical
Of the company town and store
Some say those days are gone??
But, it’s known they could do more.

The wages for the Muckers
And those men who run the Drills
May be paid a little more
But, the Lack of Safety still Kills.

The Bureau of Mines (and Safety)
Although they have done much good
Like most all Federal agencies
Not half, nearly what they should.

So the money, (under table)
Flows much faster than the Ore
To protect the mining companies
From Pimp, to the real WHORE.

The preceding written Tuesday
before the erroneous news and sad truth

Wed. Morning

After the news they were found alive
I'm adding this this morning
From joyful, happy, jubilation
To the pain and tears and mourning.

How could this have happened?
Why was the good news so wrong?
And though some knew about it
Why did the truth take so long?

Then there is the rage and anger
That has come a bit too late
About all the safety violations
That have sealed those Miners Fate.

If the officials with the power
From Fed, State, or Company
Had fulfilled their obligations
They could have stopped this tragedy.

If the men themselves had complained
They probably would have been let go
But what could those violations cost?
Well sadly now, we all know.

Just another of those lessons learned
(Though we all know that isn't so)
Soon it will be the same ol' same
To guarantee the money flow.

Lives are cheap and expendable
When it comes to the bottom line
Seems it's always been and will be
For those folks down in the Mine.

Del “Abe” Jones

May 20, 2008  

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