UMWA backs Sierra Club suit to put Blair Mountain back on National Register of Historic Places

April 18, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

More legal news that I didn’t get to on Friday: The United Mine Workers of America union has filed a motion asking to have its say in the Sierra Club’s lawsuit seeking to put Blair Mountain back on the National Register of Historic Places.

In their motion, lawyers for the UMWA explain the significance of the 1921 battle:

Though the UMWA miners who marked to Blair Mountain were defeated in battle, their stand paved the way for legislative and collective bargaining achievements in the first half of the twentieth century that helped build the American middle class.

The Battle of Blair Mountain was perhaps the most significant of a number of episodes of  “industrial strife and unrest” that Congress eventually sought to prevent by creating a legal framework for worker organization and peaceful resolution of industrial disputes.

And in their proposed “friend of the court” brief, the UMWA lawyers back the Sierra Club’s view that “powerful coal companies have undermined the process for nomination of Blair Mountain Battlefield to the National Register”:

It is beyond dispute that powerful coal companies continue to wield considerable influence over the economy and politics in West Virginia and beyond. Indeed, the instant matter demonstrates that the present-day administration of federal statutes in the state is not immune from such influence.

I’ve posted the UMWA’s court documents here.

4 Responses to “UMWA backs Sierra Club suit to put Blair Mountain back on National Register of Historic Places”

  1. On behalf of the Friends of Blair Mountain, the organization established to preserve the national historical importance that is the Blair Mountain Battleground, I want to thank the United Mine Workers of America for joining the lawsuit with us and several other organizations to re-list the 1600 acre site. We heartily agree with the UMWA that “powerful coal companies continue to wield considerable influence over the economy and politics in West Virginia and beyond,” and that the delising of the Blair Mountain Battlefield “demonstrates that the present-day administration of federal statutes in the state is not immune from such influence.”

    Harvard Ayers
    Co-author of the Nomination of Blair Mtn. to the National Register

  2. WEST VIRGINIAN says:

    Does the United Mine Workers also support the Sierra Club in banning Mountain Top Removal?

  3. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    West Virginian,

    If you click through and read the court filing, I don’t believe it says anything about that — and while I don’t speak for the UMWA, I think it’s safe to say that they do not support banning mountaintop removal.

    Ken.

  4. PJD says:

    Ken,

    I think that nowadays, a unionized surface mining operation (MTR or other) in West Virginia is getting to be pretty rare But, as far as the UMWA’s advocacy, or lack thereof, of surface and MTR mining methods, it is a little nuanced. I found this 2008 statement from Cecil Roberts to the membership:

    http://www.umwa.org/?q=news/cecil-roberts-letter-umwa-surface-mining-members

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