Millions of foreign born workers toiled in the mills, factories, and mines under hazardous unsanitary conditions for long shifts, and paid little for their labors. Any attempt to unionize was crushed by company police and government agents.
When wages were cut once again in the western Pennsylvania coalfields, John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers, called a massive strike in the Western Pennsylvania coalfields. Union men walked away from their jobs and workers in captive non-union mines did the same in a show of solidarity.
Threatened with the loss of all they owned, starvation, depravation, and harsh restrictions, do they stick with the cause or return to their jobs for scant wages, unsafe conditions, and commit their children to the same servitude? This was the dilemma faced by the miners in the fight for a worker’s union.
The strike affected an estimated two hundred thousand mine families. Special Coal and Iron Police—appointed by Pennsylvania’s Governor but paid for by the Coal Alliance—seized their property to sell at auction, evicted them from their company owned houses, and enforced unconstitutional injunctions restricting their freedoms. The families lived for over a year in crowded, unheated barracks that offered little protection from the elements. Without any other place to go and despite the hardships, most of the immigrant miners stayed and endured.
Relief in the form of food, blankets, and clothing promised by John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers, was too little, too late, and sporadic. Union help arrived only after the communist led Pennsylvania and Ohio Relief organization had been in the area to distribute basic supplies.
The rich folk in Pittsburgh and other nearby river towns looked the other way. The industrialist controlled governments on the State and Federal levels assisted to starve the miners back to work. The families had no place else to turn except to each other. Solidarity was survival!
The Village of Russellton, Pennsylvania, the first scheduled for evictions, faced and invasion of an army of governor appointed Coal and Iron Police. These government agents– thugs, thieves, and assassins recruited from the jails and streets of Pittsburgh–carried out orders to break the strike at any cost. The Constitution is set aside by the one party government bent on maintaining the “status quo.” How do you fight the bad guys when they wear the badges and carry the guns?