Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Louie Stacy, Ruby Stacy, October 8, 1986

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:08 - Mining in Brookside / Construction in Detroit

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, I was in two strikes.

Segment Synopsis: Louie Stacy describes his first strike in 1963, which he stayed on for a year. Stacy describes his children running around without shoes and clothes. He worked at Brookside twice. Before the strike, he worked at Brookside for about a year, after he been out on strike he went to Detroit to work in construction. Stacy worked in Detroit for five and a half years before returning to Brookside to work in the mines under the Southern Labor Union. Because the mine had been bought by Eastover, Stacy expected the conditions to improve. R. Stacy shares details of moving to Detroit with their five children and working different jobs while the kids were in school. L. Stacy left Detroit and moved back to Harlan County to continue mining. R. Stacy was reluctant to return to Harlan County, but eventually she left Detroit and joined L. Stacy.

Keywords: Bakeries; Cities; Coal operators; Construction; Downtown; Eastover Power Company; Gardens; Groceries; Labor unions; Machines; Northern Steel; Picture frames; Pictures; Southern Labor Union (SLU); United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Vouchers; Wages

Subjects: Children; Coal; Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan county, Ky., 1973; Coal miners--Labor unions; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Detroit (Mich.); Families; Harlan County (Ky.); Labor unions--Strike benefits; Occupations; Salaries; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; United Mine Workers of America; Work conditions

00:19:01 - 1973 strike in Harlan County, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Well, let me roll you all back to the 1973 strike.

Segment Synopsis: L. Stacy discusses the period leading up to the 1973 strike and how it was difficult to save money and prepare for it. L. Stacy shares that the miners were all ready and willing to strike when the time came. He describes the trouble caused by the UMWA giving too much authority to people in the mines. L. Stacy was a part of the grievance committee and he tried to resolve issues without a strike, but other miners thought he was favoring the company.

Keywords: Contracts; Eastover Power Company; Glenbrook; Grievances committees; Heart attacks; Labor unions; Pensions; Records; Relatives; Safety committees; Shifts; Sweetheart contracts; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)

Subjects: Children; Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners; Coal miners' spouses; Coal mines and mining; Coal mines and mining--Safety measures; Collective labor agreements--Coal mining industry; Families; Industries; Salaries; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; United Mine Workers of America

00:27:19 - Expectations for the second strike

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Partial Transcript: Well, when the strike started this last time, what did you think it was going to be like?

Segment Synopsis: R. and L. Stacy describe preparing for the strike as they knew that it would be rough. L. Stacy shares the necessities of a good strike, citing violence as necessary in order to get a contract signed. L. Stacy describes going to California to find work and how difficult it was to live there for 10 months. R. and L. Stacy also describe taking trips to Washington, D.C. to visit UMWA headquarters and to attend hearings in Congress.

Keywords: Bathrooms; Coal camps; Congress; Congressmen; Disneyland; Dry cleaners; Hearings; Labor contracts; Labor union headquarters; Labor unions; Laundry; Public opinions; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Violence

Subjects: Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners; Coal miners' spouses; Coal mines and mining; Collective labor agreements--Coal mining industry; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; United Mine Workers of America; Washington (D.C.).

00:34:53 - Memories of the strike

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Partial Transcript: Let's think about--let's talk about the strike a little bit.

Segment Synopsis: R. and L. Stacy recount living conditions during their second strike in 1973. During the 1973 strike, R. Stacy was involved in the picket line but they only had one daughter still living at home during this time. After a judge limited the picket line to three picketers, women began joining men on the picket line to prevent strikebreakers. L. Stacy describes a minister holding a mass outside on the picket line.

Keywords: Christians; Church services; Churches; Clubs; Courts; Duke Power Company; Husbands; Injunctions; Iron bars; Judges; Labor unions; Laws; Ministers; Minnie Lunsford; Neighbors; Picket lines; Police; Preachers; Scabs; Sermons; Signs; Switches; Weapons; Weather; Wives

Subjects: Coal miners; Coal miners' spouses; Coal mines and mining; Labor unions--Organizing; Picketing; Salaries; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; Women political activists

00:46:26 - Other actions during the strike

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Partial Transcript: Well, tell me about all the stuff that went on during the strike. What are all the different things you did?

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy describes standing on the picket line in addition to taking several trips to Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. R. Stacy recalls strikebreakers telling her that she had no business standing on the picket line and also shares details of her arrest. L. Stacy remembers having someone who attended labor union meetings tell their plans to Duke Power Company because the company was always one step ahead of the strikers. R. and L. Stacy describe the violence in their community during this time and recall their daughter joining them on the picket line.

Keywords: Arrests; Board meetings; Dividends; Duke Power Company; Jail; Jail cells; Labor union meetings; Labor unions; Lobbies; Lois Scott; Minnie Lunsford; Picket lines; Police; Raises; Scabs; Stocks; Trips; Violence; Visiting rooms

Subjects: Children; Communities; Families; Picketing; Salaries; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; Washington (D.C.).; Women political activists

00:57:42 - Attending labor union meetings

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Partial Transcript: Well, did you all go to strike meetings during the strike?

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy and L. Stacy shared details of attending union meetings. The union members and their families would meet and discuss plans for the men and women on the picket line. L. Stacy remembers that there would often be personal arguments and some people would come drunk to meetings. R. Stacy stopped going to union meetings but continued to stand on the picket line.

Keywords: Arguments; Labor union meetings; Labor unions; Lois Scott; Meetings; Multipurpose centers; Picket lines; Picketing strategies; Plans; Spies

Subjects: Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners' spouses; Coal miners--Labor unions; Duke Power Company; Families; Harlan County (Ky.); Picketing; Political activists; Strikes and lockouts--Miners; Women political activists

01:00:11 - Brookside Women's Club

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Partial Transcript: Okay now, was t--were you a member of the, of the women's club?

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy shares how the Brookside Women's Club was formed. A judge limited their picket line to 3 men at a time so the miners' wives joined them on the picket line. After forming the Brookside Women's Club, the women picketers grew more aggressive and used clubs to stop policemen and strikebreakers.

Keywords: Brookside Women's Club; Clubs; Cops; Courts; Injunctions; Judges; Lois Scott; Picket lines; Police; Publicity; Scabs; Switches; Violence

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Coal miners' spouses; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Families; Picketing; Strikebreakers; Women political activists

01:03:43 - Working in the coal industry

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Partial Transcript: I am so proud to be out of the work market.

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy describes the struggles of living on a miner's salary and having to save money to save for future strikes. L. Stacy shares the uncertainty of the coal mining industry and explains that he often went to Detroit for work. L. Stacy describes his last year in the mines and contracting black lung. R. Stacy shares the struggle of her children finding work in the area.

Keywords: Black lung; Cables; Car plants; Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP); Construction; Contracts; Electricity; Houses; Occupational diseases; Retirement; Scabs; Unemployment

Subjects: Children; Coal miners; Coal miners' spouses; Coal mines and mining; Detroit (Mich.); Families; Industries; Miners' phthisis; Occupations; Salaries; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining; Work environment

01:14:09 - Roles in the strike

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Partial Transcript: It sounds like you all were pretty active then during the strike, played a pretty active role in it. Would you say so?

Segment Synopsis: L. and R. Stacy describe their roles in the strike as active, but both of them were glad to leave the picket line when it was over. R. Stacy was happy when L. Stacy returned to work as she felt he got in the way of her housework.

Keywords: Active roles; Housework; Labor unions; Marriages; Mines; Picket lines; Retirement; Spouses; Strikers; Working

Subjects: Coal miners; Coal miners' spouses; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Collective bargaining--Coal mining industry; Families; Harlan County (Ky.); Industries; Picketing; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; Work environment

01:16:14 - Family histories / Childhood

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Partial Transcript: Well, where did you two meet?

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy was born in Harlan County but moved to Lee County as her father got a job mining with Blue Diamond Coal at the Monarch Mine. L. Stacy was from Lee County as well. The two met at church and got married.

Keywords: Blue Diamond Coal Company; Blue Diamond Coal Monarch Mine; Churches; Coal companies; Coal seams; Fathers; Girlfriends; Labor unions; Mules; Neighbors; Ponies; Shovels; Truck mines; Union mines

Subjects: Childhood; Children; Coal; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Families; Harlan County (Ky.); Lee County (Va.); Occupations

01:19:43 - History with unions

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Partial Transcript: Well tell me your all's history with unions then. Was your father in United Mine Workers?

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy shares that her father was in the UMWA, and her grandmother was pro-union.
L. Stacy shares about working for his first union mine in 1943 for Blue Diamond Coal Company.
R. Stacy states that though her family was pro-union, the Brookside strike was the first strike that she was involved in.

Keywords: Blackjoe; Blue Diamond Coal Company; Camp houses; Coxton; Fathers; Grandparents; Labor unions; Mining camps; Parents; Railroads; Southern Labor Union (SLU); Union mines; Union wages; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Wages

Subjects: Childhood; Coal mines and mining; Education; Harlan County (Ky).; Labor unions--Organizing; Picketing; Salaries; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining; United Mine Workers of America

01:23:01 - Life after the Brookside strike / Children

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Partial Transcript: Well, since Brookside, have you been involved in any other union organizing drives or--

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy states that the Brookside strike was the only strike that she has been a part of. L. Stacy describes a tape that he made about his religion to persuade others to join their church. After he retired from working in the mines, L. Stacy began copying tapes and renting them out to other people for money. R. Stacy then talks about their 5 children, 11 grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild. R. Stacy shares details of her childhood and education. L. Stacy's father suffered a nervous breakdown while working in the mines, so Stacy left school and began working at an early age.

Keywords: Babies; Bledsoe; Brookside; Churches; Coxton; Experiences; Grandchildren; Hospitals; Jobs; Miscarriages; Operations; Picket lines; Reading; Religions; Repent; Sins; Summer; Tapes; Union organizing drives; VCR; Vasectomies; Video tapes; Visitors; Winter; Writing

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Religion; Childhood; Children; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Corbin (Ky.); Detroit (Mich.); Education; Families; Harlan County (Ky.); Hohenwald (Tenn.); Labor unions--Organizing; Lafayette (Tenn.); Picketing; Strikes and lockouts; Videocassette recorders

01:37:22 - Occupations

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Partial Transcript: Of the jobs that you've had, what, what was your first job, Ruby?

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy describes her first job working in a laundry and dry cleaning store in Indianapolis in 1959. L. Stacy describes working with corn oil. After the death of her father, R. and L. Stacy moved back to Harlan County. After looking for work for several months, they set out for California in search of work and settled in Houston. They returned to Harlan County to look for work but struggled to find any. The two went to Detroit in 1965, where they stayed for 5 years before returning to Harlan County.

Keywords: Apartments; Businesses; Churches; Cleaners; Clothes; Constructions; Corn flakes; Corn oil; Crafts; Dry Cleaning; Flower mills; Funerals; Gift shops; Harrison County News Company; Hotels; Laundry; Magazines; Management; Retirements; Schools; Shelters; Sorting; Towns; Uniforms; Volunteering; Warehouses; Washers

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Religion; Children; Coal mines and mining; Detroit (Mich.); Families; Harlan County (Ky.); Hobbies; Houston (Tex.); Hurricanes; Indianapolis (Ind.); Nursing homes; Occupations; Radio programs; Unemployment; Volunteers

01:48:52 - Thoughts about the strike

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Partial Transcript: Well, let me roll you all back a little bit to the strike again. Um, when it was going on, what did you think that your future was going to be like?

Segment Synopsis: R. and L. Stacy were unsure of what the future looked like during the strike. L. Stacy shares that he wished his sons didn't go into the mines as the coal mining industry is unpredictable. R. Stacy shares that she thought the strike was worth it and that her children were glad the strike happened because it improved current mining conditions.

Keywords: Celebrations; Christians; Churches; Contracts; Expectations; Grandchildren; Highlights; Memories; Picket lines; Regrets; Satellite dishes; Temptations

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Religion; Children; Coal; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Collective bargaining--Coal mining industry; Collective labor agreements--Coal mining industry; Families; Industries; Occupations; Picketing; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky

01:53:30 - Hobbies

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Partial Transcript: What other tapes have you made, besides the one about--

Segment Synopsis: L. Stacy describes developing a hobby for recording videos since his retirement. He recorded a video to document his process of returning to religion. He also took videos of homecomings at the church. L. Stacy expresses a desire for more professional equipment. L. Stacy then shares stories of picnics for the coal miners where they could get together and eat and play games. L. Stacy describes the tensions between Highsplint miners and Brookside miners.

Keywords: Brookside; Christians; Churches; Companies; Copies; Family pictures; Guests; Highsplint; Hobbies; Homecomings; Horseshoes; Labor unions; Lighting; Mountains; Music; Picnics; Pictures; Recordings; Retirements; Sermons; Tapes; Tripods; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Video cameras

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Religion; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Families; Harlan County (Ky.); United Mine Workers Association

02:00:19 - Unsuccessful union organizing efforts

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Partial Transcript: What do you think happened, because at Brookside, I seem to remember that there was an effort to organize a whole lot of mines too, not just Brookside.

Segment Synopsis: L. Stacy shares why he thinks strikes at other coal mines have been unsuccessful. He states that one problem is they were getting large coal bonuses before, but now the companies are cutting the coal miners' wages.

Keywords: Bonuses; Brookside; Companies; Highsplint; Hospital cards; Labor unions; Pensions; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Wage cuts; Wages

Subjects: Children; Coal; Coal miners; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Coal mines and mining; Collective bargaining--Coal mining industry; Education; Families; Harlan County (Ky.); Industries; Salaries; United Mine Workers of America

02:03:56 - Advice for future strikers / Current working conditions

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Partial Transcript: Well, Ruby, Louie was just talking about wages going down now and what people are facing now in the mines.

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy would tell her children to "hang in there," if they were in a strike. L. Stacy shares details of current working conditions in the mines, they project that miners will soon be paid minimum wage. L. Stacy stresses the importance of a well-working labor union in the coal mining industry.

Keywords: Advice; Brookside; Companies; Experiences; Highsplint; Labor unions; Minimum wages; Sections; Strikers; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Wage cuts; Wages

Subjects: Children; Coal; Coal miners; Coal miners--Labor unions; Coal mines and mining; Harlan County (Ky.); Salaries; Strikes and lockouts; United Mine Workers of America; Work environment

02:07:26 - Life since the strike ended / Effects of the strike

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Partial Transcript: Well, what's your all's life been like pretty much since the strike ended?

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy shares that her family has had more money than before the strike. It was a struggle to survive on the wages that L. Stacy was making before the strike. If they could do it again, neither of them would change what they had done during the strike. Most of their children had already left home while they were on strike. Their youngest daughter, Emma June, was still living at home.

Keywords: Brookside Women's Club; Christians; Federal grants; Flowers; Gardens; Grants; Insulation; Mobile homes; Neighbors; Northern Steel Industries; Plants; Repairman; Scabs; Teachers; Unemployed; Unemployment; Welders; Woodwork classes; Work records

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Religion; Children; Coal; Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky.,1973.; Coal miners--Kentucky; Detroit (Mich.); Occupations; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; Women political activists; Work environment

02:15:07 - Managing a household during a strike

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Partial Transcript: How'd you divide up work at home?

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy discusses managing a household during the strike. Most of the household responsibilities and chores were hers, but when she started babysitting, L. Stacy helped with housework. L. Stacy would bring in paychecks and R. Stacy would take care of the children and the housework.

Keywords: Babysitting; Banks; Bills; Car repairs; Cars; Chores; Cleaning; Cooking; Crisis; Gardens; Households; Housework; Money; Paychecks; Picket lines; Repair bills; Retirement; Schoolteachers

Subjects: Children; Coal miners' spouses; Coal miners--Kentucky; Families; Picketing; Salaries; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; Women political activists

02:17:35 - Impact of strike on Harlan County

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Partial Transcript: Well, when you look at it in the big picture now, what do you think that strike and that contract has meant for Harlan County?

Segment Synopsis: R. Stacy shares that after the strike, their community experienced an expansion of new businesses. L. Stacy then shares about the effect of having women in the strike. R. Stacy describes women having to be a part of the strike in order to ensure that the miners could keep their jobs. L. Stacy worries for future miners and cautions against joining the coal industry. He believes that though the strike brought new businesses into their community, the wages of future miners will continue to be cut.

Keywords: Businesses; Coal companies; Contracts; Costs; Food stamps; Groceries; Labor unions; Malls; Minimum wage; Parents; Shopping centers; Strikers; Wage cuts; Wages; Welfare programs

Subjects: Children; Coal; Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners; Coal miners' spouses; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Collective labor agreements--Coal mining industry; Communities; Education; Families; Harlan County (Ky.); Industries; Occupations; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; Women political activists

02:23:08 - Relationships with union organizers

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Partial Transcript: Um, did you all, yourselves, get to know the organizers very well?

Segment Synopsis: L. and R. Stacy share names of labor union organizers that they knew or worked with. L. Stacy thought the organizers did all they could do for the strike. Although the organizers officially told the strikers not to cause trouble, the Brookside strikers knew nothing would change if they were not willing to take drastic action. This involved throwing tacks in the road and other strategies to stop strikebreakers.

Keywords: Eastover mining; Grain stores; Heart attacks; Houston Elmore; Labor unions; Lawrence Jones; Lee Potter; Managements; Norman Yarborough; Oaths; Publicity; Scabs; Tacks; Union officials; Violence

Subjects: Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Duke Power Company; Harlan County (Ky.); Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Miners

02:27:19 - Advice on working in the coal industry

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Partial Transcript: Well Lou, can you think of things that you want to add, stories you want to tell, or advice?

Segment Synopsis: L. Stacy advises against entering the coal industry, stating that it is not a dependable way to support a family. He supports a steady job instead even if the pay is less.

Keywords: Advice; Asthma attacks; Churches; Coal industry; Emphysema; Health; Jails; Mobile homes; Religions; Stories; Tickets; Wages; Wives

Subjects: Children; Coal; Coal miners' spouses; Coal miners--Kentucky; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Families; Industries; Salaries; Work environment