MARMET, WV (WOWK) – This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain, which took place in West Virginia. It was the largest labor uprising in US history.
The Battle of Blair Mountain occurred in Logan County, West Virginia as part of the Coal Wars – a series of early 20th-century labor disputes in Appalachia. Today, the United Mine Workers of America retraced the miners’ march to that historic battle.
“It’s all part of a larger historical struggle for unionization rights in the United States,” said Ericka Wills, a professor at the University of Colorado in Denver. Wills traveled from Colorado to participate in the march, and to embed herself in the lessons she teaches as a professor.
“The battle that was fought here 100 years ago is a battle that we still fight today. And its for workers rights, and for the rights of families and its for the rights for people to be able to go get a good job and make a living for themselves.”Ericka Wills, Professor at the University of Colorado in Denver
In the long-term, the battle was the start of labor laws, showed a need for unionization in West Virginia, and raised awareness about the dangerous conditions coal miners faced.
Organizers and participants say the battle is not over for fair labor laws in this country. “We’re fighting every day now because of the shift away from coal and we’re saying to Congress and we have been saying to Congress for some time, you can’t just do away without good-paying union jobs without someplace for people to go,” said Cecil Roberts, the UMWA President.
Fighting for the protection their ancestors also fought for 100 years ago. “I’m walking in the footsteps of my grandfather Roberts, my Grandfather Harlow, and my great Uncle Blizzard who led this March so to me it’s a personal thing too,” added Roberts.
The United Mine Workers of America started in Marmet Friday morning and traveled 15 miles on foot to Racine, and they will travel 15 miles Saturday and Sunday as well, ending the march in Sharples, West Virginia.