At the end of the nineteenth century, coal mining had become one of the biggest, meanest industries in the United States. Unhealthy working conditions and a reliance on child labor caused accidents and blackened men’s lungs. Crooked business practices like debt bondage and wage-cheating were just part of the misery. But it was dangerous to stand up against the mining companies. Miners didn’t just face losing their jobs—their lives were often at stake, as mining companies fought against unionizing with violence.
The coal miners’ struggles for better conditions were captured in photos and songs that have become a warning for the workers of the world. But in the future, miners might not be so lucky.
What could be worse than working deep beneath the ground, never seeing the light of day? What could be worse than knowing the money in your paycheck was a token worthless outside the company’s store?
[“The Lunatics”] gives us a vision of a mine worse than anything in Pennsylvania. Powered by slavery and jump-started by torment, this mine might as well be hell. - John Joseph Adams
21 hours ago