Inside Appalachia’s Labor History: Do You Know Where the Word “Redneck” Comes From?

Inside Appalachia’s Labor History: Do You Know Where the Word “Redneck” Comes From?
Fred Mooney and Frank Keeney (right). Courtesy of WV State Archives (WVSA), Coal Life Collection.

After a nine-day statewide strike, West Virginia teachers and school service employees are back to work with a hard-won commitment from lawmakers of a 5 percent pay raise for all public workers. Gov. Jim Justice also ordered the creation of a task force to explore long-term solutions to the public employees insurance program known as PEIA.

We’re working on an show for next week that will examine what this moment means for our state and the region. But this week, we listen back to one of our most popular episodes about the history of labor in West Virginia’s mine wars.

This is not the first time West Virginians were in the national spotlight for a labor movement. The state’s labor history is a fascinating and significant chapter of our backstory. At the turn of the 20th century, striking miners sought better pay and shorter workweeks, among a list of other demands. The shoot-outs between organizing miners and hired guns for the coal company owners went on for decades. Many people died on both sides of the struggle.

Host Jessica Lilly closes the episode with some personal thoughts about the connection between West Virginia’s mine wars, and the recent strike.

“It looks like history did indeed repeat itself during this past week’s statewide, nine-day teacher walkout that included school service personnel,” Lilly said. “Once again, West Virginia workers demanded better wages as part of the latest labor movement. Now teachers in other states are considering walkouts. While we know history was made just days ago in West Virginia, it’s not clear exactly just how far the 2018 teacher strike will go.”

This article was originally published on WV Public Broadcasting.

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