by absentee landlords of large corporations such as U.S. Steel and International Paper.
The coal miners don't care about any of the above or how the men in their families died underground because of hazardous conditions...died in bloodshed over the unionization of mining...suffered from black lung...or never quite straightened up after being reshaped by the contours of the earth's underground cavities. What the young miners don't know or choose to ignore is that the dignity of their fathers, grandfathers and even great grandfathers was squandered by the coal magnates to keep the black stuff coming for the rest of the country.
With the possibility of earning $30,000 a year against the threat of losing a mining job to automated techniques, who can blame the man who mines for money, without giving thought to reclamation practices, health and safety conditions, or unionization. A young miner expresses an articulate argument for mining. “I hate the coal mines. I'm taking home $1,000 a month, but I think I should make more. Coal mining is one place where an unskilled, uneducated person can bring in $1,000 a month off the bat.”
Coal supplies about 45 percent of the energy needs of the electricity generated sector of this nation. The amount of coal required to generate electricity in 1982 will rise to 50 percent. Coal is also used in the manufacturing of such common products as fertilizer, insecticide, disinfectants, dyes, synthetics,, rubber, nylon and plastic. The steel industry as well as the cement, chemical, paper, food, auto, textile and ceramics industries are large consumers of this solid fuel. The tar and pitch for our highways and roofs are by-products of coal.
Coal was the first material that man discovered and harnessed to create for himself heat and power. There's no escaping it, coal makes us comfortable.
In Harlan County, however, the living doesn't come quite so easily to its population of 41,678. According to the 1970 census, of the 12,464 dwelling units, 40 percent are without plumbing. In one month of 1979, nearly 20 percent of the population received food stamps for a total of $292,664. More than 12 percent received some kind of welfare assistance in one month for a total of $180,521, not including medical aid. In one month, 2,069 people received medical assistance for a total of $212,242. The average daily attendance at Harlan County schools is 8,160: 4,062 children eat their lunches free; 2,668 get a reduced price. The cost of a lunch is 60 cents.
Obviously, everybody is not rich in Harlan as Clyde Gaines would like us to believe. Aside from being poor, many people are ill treated. “They act like you're a junkyard dog around here,” said one