The Battle of the Blair Mountain started in September 1921 between coal miners in the State of Virginia and the coal companies. The companies were supported by government officials including the sheriff of Southern Western Virginia (Hennen 1). Philosophical themes are evident in the issues affecting the coal miners and the role played by the government in support of the companies instead of its citizens. While the challenges experienced by the coal miners in the State of Virginia during the uprising could be avoided, the Unions played a major role in ensuring that fruitful outcomes resulted from the death of both the soldiers hired to curb the revolt and the miners.
Theme of Justice
In the state of Virginia during the uprising, every person was committing criminal offenses. Massive deaths of company workers, miners, and state officials were witnessed. The sheriff committed capital offenses by hiring soldiers to kill the coalminers. The Union workers also played a role in equipping the miners with illegal firearms to use against the sheriff's soldiers and deputies. During the uprising, officials who supported the coal miners were brutally murdered by the company owners and their private militias (Hennen 5). Despite having the right to protect their properties, killing is a federal offense that needed to be solved by the government.
The coal miners were denied their right to belong to trade unions in the state of Virginia. Despite being poorly compensated for their services with company currencies which could only be used in the company stores (Hennen 1), the coal miners were also subjected to poor working conditions. According to Stumpf, Socrates argued that human justice is crucial to the city's justice. However, in the State of Virginia, the government only favored the rich.
Injustices were also witnessed after the end of the uprising. When the federal government intervened to curb the revolution, the union officials were arrested and charged with murder and other capital offenses (Hennen 9). Despite the involvement of the companies owners in the offense, the union workers were blamed for all the offenses, and chaos that resulted from the strike. The justice system failed to work for the coal miners and instead sided with the rich company owners.
The coal workers were justified to seek alternatives to judicial justice. The actions undertaken by the union workers and the ex-world war vigilant could not be avoided. If the coal miners continued to abide by the rule of law, their mistreatment and social injustices would have continued without any government intervention. Despite being morally wrong to kill fellow human beings, being subjected to social injustices by both the employers and the government pushed the workers to break the law.
The Theme of Civil Disobedience
The revolutions resulted from the exploitation of the coal miners by the company owners. Despite the warnings by the local authorities to avoid demonstrations, the workers did not abide by the warning. The Union Officials were not allowed in the areas and the workers signed agreements not to join any labor union. However, the frustrations witnessed in their places of works forced them to go against the company's and authorities' guidelines. The workers adopted violent methods of airing their grievances. However, despite the social wrongs inflicted by the company owners, taking law in their hands was against the rules.
The actions undertaken by the coal miners to demonstrate can be considered as civil disobedience. However, inadequate salaries, poor working conditions, and alienation of their land contributed to their hostility. Despite breaking the law, the actions undertaken by the coal miners are justifiable in the ethical issues. The profits derived from their hard work by the companies did not benefit them and the mistreatment they received can be termed as human slavery.
The coal mining industry owners violated human rights by subjecting their workers to harsh working conditions. The leased working pieces of equipment utilized by the miners were not adequate for the work in the mines. Instead of appreciating the workers for being loyal to the contracts, the company owners took advantage of them. The workers resulted in nullifying the contracts they had signed with the company. Violation of agreements is a civil wrong punishable by law. However, the conditions of the contracts were only favoring the company.
Natural resources reserves in the mountain region of the State of Virginia made foreign coal companies to evict the natives from their land (Hellen 33). The companies were allowed to build their mining industry in the land without considering the original inhabitants. Despite being their resources, the citizens of Virginia did not benefit from the resources. They were forced to move from the mountains and settle in areas without mineral deposits.
The Natural resources originally belonged to the coal miners. However, after the invasion of their land by foreign companies, they were forced to offer cheap labor. The houses constructed by the firms for the cite workers were in poor conditions and the residents were harassed and forced out in case of a strike. Land alienation by the rich from the poor with the support of the local government angered the citizens of Virginia leading to the emergence of the uprising.
The actions undertaken by the rioting coal miners are justifiable in the literature context. Subjecting human beings to harsh working conditions and poor pay often results in revolts. Massive killings witnessed during the Blair Mountain war cannot be entirely blamed on the coal workers. However, the provocations witnessed by both the government and their employers were the major reason for the unruly state witnessed. The uprising led by the Revered (Hennen 3) who is supposed to be the spiritual leader indicates that they were pushed beyond their elastic limits.
The killing of heroes who dared to oppose the company's policies by hired security personnel and the government officials mandated with protecting the rights of the citizen was a major reason for the revolt. The Sheriff and his deputies hired militias to terrorize the workers leading to chaos. The strike would have been peaceful demonstrations if the company and the local authorities allowed the workers to exercise their rights freely. However, using excessive force every time the workers demonstrated led to the adoption of a violent method of airing their grievances. While the use of weapons and war tactics to curb labor-related issues was not the best cause of action, the benefits derived from it were more than losses suffered by the coal miners.
Hennen, John. "The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Labor Uprising." (2006): 1468-1469.
Stumpf, Samuel Enoch. Socrates to Sartre: A history of philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993.
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