The film Matewan demonstrates the hard work
of coal miners during the time of the early 1920’s in a fine sized town called
Stone Mountain located in West Virginia.
Being that everyone that resided in this town were primarily coal miners
they worked for the Stone Mountain Coal Company. The company acted as the seigneur because
they were superior to others due to the amount of authority they had. Along with the authority, the company had residential
areas, land, and also restaurants. The
residents of this specific town had no other option but to work for the Coal
Company because it had exclusive control over every sense of capital there was
which essentially created enslavement of the residents. Due to the fact that the miners had no choice
concerning their choice of occupation, the company forced the miners into a
bondage contract. This being a pure
illustration of a primitive component in a feudal system that the Stone
Mountain Coal Company clearly put upon this town.
The Stone Mountain mine land never once received
the presence of the actual coal company owners, which were the ones who were
receiving the earnings produced by the coal.
The workers were completely in the dark as to what their circumstances
were and who’s calls they were answering to.
The reason is because they never saw the actual owners but instead the Baldwin
Felts Detective Agency and their job was to assure the excavation of the coal,
manage the corporation along with the manufacturing of the mine. In order for the company to be seen as a
threat to the town of Stone Mountain it had to initiate dominance over the coal
miners. Threats and intimidation were
major components the Baldwin Felts Detectives used in order to create terror among
the town to essentially influence the workers to do their job because other
than the basics to survive they had almost no reason to.
The Coal Company undermined the workers by
paying them very poorly and limiting their independence as customers. What caused the enslavement for the miners
was the fact that they were forced into buying clothes, equipment, food, etc.
from the company store which was typically more expensive than demanded. The entire purpose of forcing the workers to
buy from the company store was to ensure that the money the miners were earning
was being spent on the company store which would circulate back to the company. The miners were very well determined when it
came to their work because they were doing it to provide for their families with
everyday necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing. They leaned on the company’s arm to provide
an adequate source of employment.
Nevertheless, the company did depend on the workers, because with the
lack of workers the company would have no practical work force to do the
excavation of the coal and actually carry on the manufacturing process.
One remarkable role that was continuously
played throughout the film was religion. It jointed the fellow citizens of
Stone Mountain in spite of their ethnic differences. Sermons were practiced in order to serve as a
way for the fellow citizens to converse with one another. One evening the Baldwin Felts Detectives
attended a service, not to show any sort of religious support, but to assure
that no one would ignite any rebellion against the coal company. Regular gatherings that caused for an abundance
of people were highly dejected because they caused for suspicion. Nonetheless, religion was a steady strength within
their community. Religion seemed to be
quite amusing to the Baldwin Felts Detectives because belittling it by mimicking
their practices. But in the end,
religion was exactly what the miners needed in order to keep the community
powerful and confident.
realizing the tonnage value had lowered, the miner’s income was lowered as well. The company owner’s intentions appeared to
accelerate income while trying to encourage the miners to continue working but
this obviously backfired. The miners ordered
a strike against the company to fight the maltreatment and unlawful acts. A union was then formed for the miners to be
able to show that what they believed in was the only way they would work if
accepted. Although, Joe Kenehan, the
labor organizer, was demoralized because of a spy within the union putting out
false accusations about him. The loss of
loyalty began to circulate and this caused for the union to lose their bond. A powerful stance had to be upheld by the
union in order for them to go into battle and actually have a chance. Matters had to be taken into the miner’s hands
because reality settled in and that was the realization that the union was
beginning to diminish. By doing so, the
miners took it upon themselves to fight the Baldwin Felts Detectives and their
crew alone. With no history on battle
strategies, the workers still went after what they wanted because they had such
will, bravery and the pure hunger for independence. The battle concluded with no lack in authority
from the coal company and many deaths on both ends of the battle but the deaths
had little to no effect on the company. This
illustrates the fact that the company does in actuality have ownership of the
miners lives. All the hard work and
financial income that was provided by the workers were still only in the
company’s advantage, leaving the company with the utmost authority in the town