UMWA*

      Coal mining is a very rough, dangerous job and the miner were treated badly for many years but as the demand for coal increased and the workers began to organize under the United Mine Workers of America making their demands known with a voice of a large organization. My father worked in the coal mines for over 40 years before and after the Unionizing of the coal miners. In 1930 my father was working at a mine on Bingamon Creek known as Martin’s Road Mine. It had previously operated under the name of Love Coal Company. My father and mother were living in company housing known a Coal Camp in 1930 when my sister was born in January of that year. The mine was a non union mine as were most mines at that time. My father noticed a young man that he knew on a picket line at the mine and it was extremely cold so he invited the young man in to get warm and have something to eat. This was seen by management and my dad was fired and evicted from company housing when my sister was just a few months old. Luckily my mother’s parent lived close by and they moved in with her parents. This was the beginning of my dad fighting to organize the mines. After the mines were organized conditions became much better but the fight between management and the UMWA continues until today...

      I recently was going through my mothers collection and came upon a letter to the editor of the local newspaper written by a Mrs. Paul L. (Resta) Cheuvront and I believe it was written in the 1980s when coal mine management was trying to reorganize reducing the older retired miners benefits and separating them and future retirement of workers.

The Cheuvront family lived in a company coal camp located at Owings when Paul and my father worked together and were friends.

The Letter



Dir Sir;
I hope all the young coal miners in West Virginia can read this:
      I am an old retired coal miner’s wife. My husband started working in the mines in 1926, the year we were married. We went to housekeeping in a coal mine camp house. We had no electric or gas. We paid $100 a month for a company doctor when our first daughter was born. I had her at home, my doctor bill was $500 and I paid $3 a week for a girl to stay with me. She cooked on a coal stove, washed clothes on a scrub board. Then when my other daughter and son were born, they too were born in a mining camp. We paid $200 for a company doctor. We paid $2.50 each pay which was every two weeks until the $200 was paid. I again paid $3 a week for a girl to come and stay with me. She did all the chores I mentioned above plus pumped water, carried it in the house for washing, cooking and drinking. Our fancy bathroom was 50 feet or more above the house, setting on a bank. It was known as the little house above the big house.

      My husband loaded coal, 19 cents a ton, shot his coal down and loaded it. One went to bed every night praying for bread the next day to feed your family.

      Then the UMWA began. That was terrible. Lots and lots of times when my husband went to work I could hear men crying and hollering. They were getting beaten up for trying to go to work for the UMWA.

      We lived in fear both day and night, until Mr. Lewis got the UMWA all settled and men could work in peace. They began to get raises in pay. We had food, real food, to eat, money for clothes, and money to buy furniture.

      It was only the mercy of God that got us through those days. Now these old men are almost all gone. But what is left for them if their retirement and medical services are taken from them. They are the ones that fought for the UMWA and now their checks are to be cut-off! But the younger miners can retire and draw a much larger retirement pension. God knows all miners earn what they get. But why should the old men be denied what they fought for and got left out now.

      Perhaps on earth they can get by, but some day the One who did this to the old miners will have to face the same God the old miners do. God is a just and holy man who will give the coal miners a place that isn’t full of coal dust and water holes. But a home where they will have no worries of tomorrow or where a white collar man can say, “Boy, get out, you are just an old coal miner and there is no room for you here.” If you have all the money in the world, when you face God it won’t be any good for you to try to buy Him.

Mrs. Paul Cheuvront
Box 126N Bridgeport, WV


      If anyone would know any of the descendants of Paul and Resta Cheuvront and would like to have the clipping please contact me cn8ff@aol.com or call the Harrison County Genealogical Society via the Harrison County Library.

*



John Llewellyn Lewis (February 12, 1880 – June 11, 1969) was an American leader of organized labor who served as president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW) from 1920 to 1960. A major player in the history of coal mining

The UMWA (United Mine Workers of America) was an influential member of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and was the driving force behind the creation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Organizers from the UMWA fanned out across the country in the 1933 to organize all coal miners after passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act. The law granted workers the right to form unions and bargain collectively with their employers. After organizing the nations coal fields, the miners turned their attention to the mass production industries, such as steel and automobiles, and helped those workers organize. Through the CIO, nearly 4 new million workers were organized in less than two years.


Return to Main Page
Return to Archives