Event Announcement: Trish Kahle speaks about Union Democracy in the Appalachian Coalfields

Trish Kahle, a doctoral student in the history department at the University of Chicago, will present an overview of her current research at a brown-bag lecture at noon on Thursday, September 10, in the Reuther Conference Room of the Walter P. Reuther Library.

Her presentation, entitled, "Jobs, Lives, and Land: Energy, Environmentalism, and Union Democracy in the Appalachian Coalfields," examines the Miners for Democracy, arguably the most successful union democracy movement of the 1960s and 1970s. This “kick the bums out" campaign against the corrupt administration of Tony Boyle was memorialized in Barbara Kopple's Academy Award-winning documentary, Harlan County, USA. Yet the Miners for Democracy, shaped as it was by the tripartite demands for good jobs, safe working conditions, and a livable environment, also produced a powerful if short-lived example of "class struggle environmentalism." Worker demands were ultimately shaped by an emergent environmental consciousness and the miners' sense of their place in the ecosystem was profoundly shaped by the social relationships of the workplace and capitalism more broadly. The context of environmental politics is essential for understanding the Miners for Democracy, and for situating the rebellion in the coalfields as not only a struggle between miners and operators, but as a key site of the reorganization of American energy production in the long 1970s.

Kahle’s research visit is supported through a Sam Fishman Travel Grant from the Reuther Library. These annual grants provide up to $1,000 to support travel to Detroit to access archival records of the American labor movement in the Reuther Library. The award is named in honor of Sam Fishman, a former UAW and Michigan AFL-CIO leader. For further information, please contact Erik Nordberg, Reuther Library Director, at 313-577-4024.