During the early 1970s, a movement of rank-and-file coal miners rose up in Appalachia to challenge mine bosses and stodgy union officials. They sought greater control over the workplace and a broadened vision of industrial power. Calling themselves the “Miners For Democracy,” these reformers gained short-lived control over the union’s top leadership and earned a legacy for militant unionism. But what about coal miners in the expanding coalfields of the American West?
In his new book Carbon County, USA: Miners for Democracy in Utah and the West
(University of Utah Press, 2020), Christian Wright recovers the story of western miners who joined the Miners For Democracy and challenged their anti-union employers in Utah’s historic mining communities. These struggles, he says, provide an object lesson for us all about the frontlines of labor and climate justice.
Ryan Driskell Tate is a Ph.D. candidate in United States history at Rutgers University. He is completing a book on fossil-fuels and energy development in the American West. Twitter: @rydriskelltate.