On January 13, 2020, a group of miners from the Quest Energy, company in Pike County, Kentucky blocked the railways carrying a heap of mined coal.
Over 50 workers have been denied pay for the past three weeks totaling between $2,000-$3,000 a worker. The companies gave little reasoning for the delay in payment, stating only that the company faces “challenging markets.” The miners who had been denied pay blocked up the railways, stopping a train of 120 cars, 100 of which were carrying already mined coal. The miners were joined by their fellow workers and members of the community who brought food and blankets in a great showing of solidarity. The company caved rather quickly, issuing checks which prompted the miners to allow the train to pass.
The significance of this action on the part of the miners illustrates much more than what was seen on the surface of this particular struggle. At a glance, one could say what was seen as a group of disgruntled workers standing up to management; something that happens every now and then and nothing more.
But a slightly deeper look at the situation reveals quite a lot about the practical education of working people working everyday to support themselves and their families.
To leverage their demands against the bosses, the miners stopped the circuit of capital from completing itself. They prevented the value of coal, created by the miners themselves, to be transformed into profit, money through its sale and delivery. While none of the miners in their statements put their actions into terms of political economy or stated whether or not they had formally studied economics they acted in a manner which perfectly shows how the worker, simply by the experience of their exploited lives, understand the system well enough to knock the wind out of it at a moments notice.
The miners had been denied upwards of $30,000 of pay which the company clearly had, as it has now paid it out to the workers. This act shows how wages are not made by current work, but by past work. The value created by workers previously has already been transformed from coal to money, and thusly can be paid out to workers. When the miners stopped the train from carrying its payload of coal to sale, the miners then directly shut down the circuit of capital. The coal, which is mined by miners and not touched by corporate officials, must be sold so that the value of that coal can be realized as money. It is the workers who generate the value, the money, of their own wages while the bosses, capitalists, etc. manage this money, taking as much for themselves paying the workers as little as they can get away with even though the pay originates from the labor of the worker.
By denying the workers pay, the company has shown quite clearly that wages come from capital that is already on hand to the company and advanced for the worker’s wage. When withheld from the worker, this money becomes a direct profit for the company; this is where the profit of the board of directors, the CEO, the foreman, and the various managers comes from.
This situation is not unique to the miners of Pike County or the field of mining. This is the general condition of capitalism of which all wage workers face, to have the value of their work stolen from them by their bosses. While actions taken by the miners in Pike County gained a victory in this particular case, the day to day exploitation continues. We have seen over the past year a great many strikes of various groups of workers, mining, steel production, teachers, auto production and the like. And while victories are found in these actions they have not been able to prevent the conditions for their necessity.
It will only be when the working class comes together in a unified directed movement that the conditions of exploitation can be removed. The spontaneous uprisings of this and that group can attain only temporary victories. For the livelihood of the majority of Americans to no longer be in the hands of a few hundred business owners, American workers must come together as a class to defeat the capitalist class which every day, holds the flame of life and death over us all.
Categories: U.S. News