Roughly eight years ago, Maury Johnson was tending to the work of maintaining his homestead and serving his community in a variety of ways. Then, a letter from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) arrived, telling him they’d like to survey his land. He agreed, so long as he could go along. It was during that process that Johnson went from a welcoming landowner to a relentless opponent of the MVP. The dangers it posed to life, land and liberty were more than Johnson could stand. So, individually, and through numerous community organizations committed to preserving the ecology of Monroe County and communities all along the MVP route, Johnson has been helping lead the charge against the MVP as a fierce friend of Mother Earth.
Grant Town, WV, Monday April 11– Sixteen activists who were arrested on Saturday for blockading the coal-fired Grant Town Power Plant that burns coal waste to profit US Senator Joe Manchin were released from jail overnight. On Sunday, activists returned to the plant for a Palm Sunday service to continue their call for Manchin to stop blocking passage of the federal Build Back Better bill. On Saturday, hundreds of West Virginia residents and climate change activists protested outside of the plant for several hours on Saturday to bring light to the fact that not only has Manchin been stalling efforts to address climate change, but he is also personally benefiting from the continuation of fossil fuels that are creating climate chaos in US communities– including the ones he represents.
Organizers of the "Coal Baron Blockade" protest which targeted right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's coal empire Saturday afternoon reported that state police almost immediately began arresting campaigners who assembled in Grant Town, West Virginia. Hundreds of campaigners participated in the blockade of Grant Town Power Plant, which receives coal waste from Enersystems, the company owned by the West Virginia senator's son. Manchin earns $500,000 per year from Enersystems—"making a very lucrative living off the backs of West Virginians," said Maria Gunnoe, an organizer of the action, this week.
The Green New Deal proposal is one of the only effective, broadly recognized pathways to tackle the climate crisis and address its social and economic consequences. It is technologically possible and economically sustainable. Yet although the Green New Deal project is already under way in some shape or form in various states, it has yet to be scaled up to the national level. In fact, climate policy as a whole has been stalled in Congress, and the Biden administration has so far engaged more in symbolic gestures than in living policy processes. With time quickly running out to prevent a greenhouse apocalypse, activists need to reorganize and unite efforts to build massive public support and political will for climate action.
Despite the political successes of the “Fight For $15” movement, actual unionized fast food restaurants are rare. Burgerville workers in Portland, Oregon recently reached an agreement on a union contract after a years-long effort, and Starbucks workers in Buffalo and elsewhere have scheduled union elections at a number of stores. Now, 25 employees of a Tudor’s in tiny Elkview, West Virginia are joining them in the vanguard of fast food organizing by seeking to unionize with UFCW Local 400. Yesterday, they filed for a union election with the NLRB.
One thousand support staff the Huntington, West Virginia hospital system voted October 21 to authorize a 10-day strike when their current contract expires November 2. The contract covers maintenance and service workers, licensed practical nurses, and other medical support workers at Cabell Huntington Hospital and Saint Mary’s Medical Center organized under the Service Employees International Union. The staff have been under intense strain managing both the COVID-19 pandemic, with West Virginia presently one of the worst states in the country for infections, and the ongoing opioid epidemic, long centered in Huntington. Both of the city’s hospitals saw record COVID-19 hospitalizations in September and ICUs at full capacity.
Lindside, WV — Early Tuesday morning, two Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters locked themselves to construction equipment at a construction site in Lindside, WV. A rally of nearly a dozen supporters gathered nearby. Banners at the site read, “PIPELINES STINK,” “SOLIDARITY WITH STOP LINE 3,” and “AIN’T SCARED.” As of 11 AM, one protester had been extracted and arrested after preventing construction at the site for over 5 hours. The other was in the process of being extracted by law enforcement. Those locked down stated, "A better world isn't just possible, it's necessary. As we write this, wildfires rage and major cities are recovering from unprecedented flooding. We're not running out of time to address global climate change, we're already out.
In her documentary “Hard Road of Hope,” independent filmmaker Eleanor Goldfield details the history and contemporary struggles of West Virginians living and dying in coal country. As part of our coverage commemorating the Battle of Blair Mountain centennial, we are screening “Hard Road of Hope” for a limited time on the TRNN YouTube channel (watch it now here). In this complementary interview, TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez talks with Goldfield about the urgency of the issues detailed in her documentary, and about how the gas industry, which employs environmentally destructive practices like fracking, is picking up where the coal industry left off and continuing the exploitation of the people and resources of West Virginia. To see more of Goldfield’s work, visit https://artkillingapathy.com/.
Lawn, WV — Early Friday morning, two pipeline fighters locked themselves to drill equipment at the site where the Mountain Valley Pipeline crosses under Interstate 64 in Greenbrier County, WV. Their action halted work at the site for 2.5 hours, until both people were extracted and arrested. A banner at the site read, "MVP Is Deadly; Doom To The Pipeline". Both protesters were arrested before 8:30 AM. One person was charged with 6 misdemeanors, with bail set at $7,500. The other was charged with 4 misdemeanors, with bail set at $5,000. Both were bailed out on Friday. "In the expansive timeline of industrial extraction, halting work for a single day might feel molecular, but today’s action is anything but isolated," stated one of the people locked to the drill.
On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to filmmaker and journalist, Eleanor Goldfield about her documentary, "Hard Road of Hope". Goldfield’s documentary, "Hard Road of Hope", revisits West Virginia’s long tradition of radicalism and militant unionism, including the famed 1921 armed uprising, the largest since the Civil War, by some 10,000 coal miners at Blair Mountain who fought the repressive coal owners and their hired coal company gun thugs and militias. In 2018, the state’s 20,000 public school teachers and employees carried out a strike over low pay and high health-care costs, shutting down every public school in West Virginia until their demands were met.
On the same day President Joe Biden sketched out the first details of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus proposal earlier this month, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a fellow Democrat, dunked its most important component in a bucket of cold water. “Absolutely not. No,” he told The Washington Post, when asked if the party’s top priority should be sending out $2,000 stimulus payments—a pledge that Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and a multitude of other Democratic politicians made repeatedly on the campaign trail. “Getting people vaccinated, that’s job No. 1.” When the interviewer pointed out that this position placed him directly at odds with party leadership, Manchin more or less shrugged.
Water is Life – it is where we come from, who we are (both in a base physical sense and philosophically as fluid beings in space and time), how we and the ecosystems we depend on survive. And therefore, it is also of prime interest to a capitalist system desperate to commodify everything and everyone. Water is literally a traded commodity on the stock market , perhaps the most prime example of how our system treats finite entities like water as if they were infinitely marketable while treating infinite 1s and 0s on a screen as if they were essential to our survival as a species.
We don’t need another post about “these times.” We can all pretty much agree that shit is weird – that we’re confused, bewildered and feel like we’re on a boat captained by Bond villains heading towards a waterfall, stuck in a cyclone, trying to build rafts out of shoelaces and hope. Indeed, the discussion of where we are has hit a bit of a monotonous groove, a broken record type feel that just grates at us whenever we hear it. Someone just needs to kick the turntable and get us another round of beers. A more interesting Pilsner pondering – one that’s at once more mysterious and more clarifying – is the future we dream of, and the past we can learn from. More than just simple cause and effect, the past is our map, and the future is our navigation plan. Without that map, how the hell can you know where you are, where you started, where the path has taken you, how the hell you got into this storm headed straight for a waterfall, and how to navigate out of it?
For years now Eleanor has been participating in climate justice camps and actions providing support to those on the front lines of the climate and environmental crises however it was needed from producing media to locking down. It was through this work that she became aware of the major shift from mountain top removal for coal to fracking for gas, both very exploitative and extractive industries, in West Virginia. As she went there to cover what was happening, it became clear that the story was too big for anything but a documentary. In "Hard Road of Hope," Eleanor teaches the untold history of how immigrants were brought to West Virginia to work in the coal mines and how they worked together against dangerous and oppressive working conditions. You will likely be surprised by this history. I was. As West Virginians tell the story of this struggle, Eleanor weaves in the roots of capitalism, colonization and cultural genocide that created and made it possible to maintain such oppression.
For more than a century-and-a-half, the forests, streams, and hollows of the Appalachian Mountains have been scraped and gashed to unearth their heart of rich black coal. These lumps of hydrocarbons historically played a vital role in America’s electricity mix, accounting for a third of the country’s energy production as recently as 2008. But over the past decade, a devastating combination of forces has pummeled the industry, from cheap natural gas and the falling cost of renewables to growing public pressure to respond to the climate crisis. U.S. coal production has dropped 40 percent since its peak 12 years ago, and the commodity accounted for only 14 percent of the country’s electricity generation last year. With the coronavirus pandemic now stalling energy demand, coal production has dropped about 26 percent in the past 12 months alone, perhaps ringing the death knell for coal as an energy source in America.