‘Justice in the Coalfields’ : The Pittston Strike, April 5, 1989

Trailer: ‘Justice in the Coalfields’ by Anne Lewis

Anne Lewis’ provocative and skillfully produced documentary of the strike, Justice in the Coalfields, has had a profoundly formative influence not only on my understanding of the struggle, but larger issues of American culture and Appalachian collective politics… Justice in the Coalfields is a remarkable oral history narrated by persons on both sides of the nearly year-long dispute.Tal Stanley / Southern Changes

By Anne Lewis / The Rag Blog / April 6, 2009

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Pittston Strike that began April 5, 1989 in Virginia’s coal country.

The reason I know is that I had one of those flashback moments last week. The Richmond Times Dispatch wanted clips from my film “Justice in the Coalfields” to run on their website for a major retrospective on the Pittston strike. Then they laid off the reporter (one of 28 lay-offs) on Friday so they didn’t run the story. And just when they were doing something good about the coalfields. Folks in southwest Virginia (and I was one of them) believe that the only time the rest of the state recognizes their existence is when the governor declares martial law.

The Pittston strike rings out as an example of worker and community solidarity. More than 1,700 coal miners in southwestern Virginia and West Virginia walked out after the company revoked the health care of pensioners, disabled miners and their families, and widows. There were 4,000 arrests for nonviolent civil disobedience against Pittston which owned Brinks armored trucks as well as coal mines.

The strike was about so many current issues — the demand for universal health care, global energy, lay-offs, worker/community alliances, the Right to Work law, that “Justice” might have renewed usefulness.

You can also view a trailer from the film at annelewis.org. If you have any problems, you might want to right click on the link and open with quicktime player. The trailer is also available at Appalshop’s General Store.

Here is a review of the film by Tal Stanley. It appeared in Southern Changes in 1995.

[Anne Lewis is an independent filmmaker associated with Appalshop, senior lecturer at UT-Austin, and member of TSEU-CWA Local 6186 and NABET-CWA. She is the associate director of “Harlan County, U.S.A” and the producer/director of “Fast Food Women,” “To Save the Land and People,” “Morristown: in the air and sun,” and a number of other social issue and cultural documentaries. Her website is annelewis.org.]

See these related articles:

  • Tension Easing, but Miners’ Strike Against Pittston Goes On by B. Drummond Ayres Jr. / Special to The New York Times / Nov. 26, 1989
  • The Place of Justice by Tal Stanley / Southern Changes / Vol. 17, No. 3-4, 1995
  • And:

    The Rag Blog

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    One Response to ‘Justice in the Coalfields’ : The Pittston Strike, April 5, 1989

    1. shirah says:

      Thanks for mentioning my post yesterday at Daily Kos. It is actually a crosspost from my home blog – unbossed. http://www.unbossed.com/

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