By SHERI GASSAWAY
Some 1,100 striking mine workers at Warrior Met Coal in Brookwood, Ala., received an unexpected gift from the Labor Movement in Missouri recently in the way of donations and some help on the picket lines.
Kevin FitzGerald, a Heat & Frost Insulators Local 1 retiree and well known, energetic St. Louis Labor activist, jumped on his motorbike and headed down to Alabama on Sept. 13 to drop off a handful of checks from local unions and Labor organizations that he collected in just a matter of days before his trip.
SCABS, VEHICULAR ASSAULTS
The mine workers have been on strike since April 1 after voting down a proposed five-year contract over pay, health benefits, working conditions and safety. Two months into the strike, the company hired scabs to cross the picket lines, and about a dozen peaceful protesters were arrested by police. A month later, and scabs or Warrior Met personnel in pickup trucks were caught on video trying to run down picketers.
“Strikes and labor actions affect all of us,” FitzGerald said. “This is a huge one that will set the tone for the future. Their win is a win for all of us. Their loss is loss for all of us. These are such good people, and I’m better for knowing them.”
A NICE REACTION
Before delivering the donations, FitzGerald stopped for breakfast and overheard a couple at the next table talking about scabs.
“Turns out he was a striking miner,” FitzGerald said. “They were a wonderful couple. The reaction from his wife when I told her I’d come from St. Louis bringing donations was worth the trip itself.”
Afterward, FitzGerald met with Larry Williams, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) District 20 vice president, and Carthell Williams, UMWA District 20 representative, and presented them with the donations.
“What a great, informative time,” FitzGerald said. “Mr. Spencer was visibly moved by the donations.”
FitzGerald then spent the day visiting 13 picket sites, delivering water and picking up trash.
“Over and over I heard, ‘We can use all of the help we can get,’ ” he said. “And they appreciate it. Donations can be given online, but there is something different when an old nitwit on a motorbike actually rides there and hand-delivers the donations to them. I saw that. Someone’s family will benefit by what was done this morning.”
Unions and organizations that made donations to the miners included:
• St. Louis Labor Council
• St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council
• Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1
• CWA Local 6300
• United Media Guild Local 36047
• AFT Local 420
YOU CAN HELP
A national strike fund has been set up for the striking mine workers. To donate online, visit umwa.org/umwa2021strikefund/. Checks may also be made out to the UMWA 2021 Strike Aid Fund and mailed to P.O. Box 513, Dumfries, VA 22026.
FitzGerald is now working on collecting union signs (no metal stands) to fill the lawn at the mine workers’ office in a show of solidarity from St. Louis. He is also asking for union t-shirts and stickers to send to the miners.
“This will be a powerful moral boost to the striking men and women at Warrior Met Coal,” he said.
FitzGerald can be reached at 636-399-4147 or on Facebook at facebook.com/kevin.fitzgerald.39904.