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Coal Wars

Unions, Strikes, and Violence in Depression-Era Central Washington

David Bullock


Conflicting labor alliances turn coal miners and their families against each other—a heated, violent battle that unleashes enduring bitterness.  Coal Wars tells the fateful story.


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Strikes were a way of life for central Washington coal miners and their families, but Tuesday, April 3, 1934, was different. This time, people were afraid. Wives and mothers pelted cars with rocks, rotten eggs, and cow pies. They cursed and assaulted anyone who dared to cross their picket line.

On a normal shift, the striking laborers spent ten or more hours at the workplace. Dressing, preparing lights and equipment, and traveling into the mine shaft—as much as an hour each way—were all done on their own time. The miners and their families wanted safer working conditions, fair wages, and a six-hour workday.

So when leaders of their national union, the United Mine Workers of America, seemed indifferent to their concerns, some local members created a new organization, the Western Miners Union of America, and decided to strike. But this time, conflicting union alliances turned residents of Roslyn, Cle Elem, and Ronald against each other, and the heated, violent battle left deep and lasting scars.

A refreshingly balanced account, Coal Wars captures the drama surrounding a dual union movement in the 1930s American West while portraying the region’s melting pot of working families and the sociopolitical impacts of New Deal policies. Author David Bullock witnessed the bitter emotions first hand. His grandfather, a Roslyn miner, lived through the events depicted in Coal Wars.

Illustrations / maps / notes / bibliography / index / 208 pages (2014)

Listen to Heath Brown’s insightful interview with David Bullock on New Books Network

Additional information

Dimensions 9 x 6 in