Title: Interview with Bill Reynolds Identifier: 1997oh033 Date: 19 Oct 1996Interviewer: Jerrell Reynolds Project: Blue Diamond/Stearns Coal Mining Strike
JERRELL REYNOLDS: I am interviewing Bill Reynolds a coal miner who worked forthe Stearns coal company during the strike that took place there from July 1976 to May 1979. My name is Jerrell Reynolds I'm a student at eastern Kentucky University and son of the interviewee. This oral history project on the Stearns coal mine strike is being conducted as a class project. The interview is being conducted at the home of Gerald Reynolds at Revelo, Kentucky on the 19th day of October 1996 at 8pm.
JERRELL REYNOLDS: Could you please state your full name for me and give us your birthdate.
BILLY REYNOLDS: Billy Jay Reynolds. Born 1927 twenty-second of September 1927.
J REYNOLDS: When you worked for Stearns Company do you remember why the minersdecided to call for a strike.
B REYNOLDS: Well they just thought they'd be better off with the union UMW.1:00
J REYNOLDS: There was no safety problems or anything like that?
B REYNOLDS: No. It wasn't for safety it was for better conditions. More moneyand stuff.
J REYNOLDS: When you say better condition, what type of conditions.
B REYNOLDS: Well a lot better safety for one thing. Safety is a thing that noneof these mines don't have much of because they can just, the boss can just tell you to do whatever they want you to do. But on a union they can't make you or force you to do anything that you don't want to do that way if its not safe.
J REYNOLDS: In your mind was the strike avoidable?
B REYNOLDS: It could have been yes.
J REYNOLDS: what could have been done?
B REYNOLDS: Well the company could have offered more money. If they would haveand that would solved a lot of their troubles.
J REYNOLDS: SO one of the main reasons was money?2:00
B REYNOLDS: Yeah I believe, that was the most important thing that the miners.Cause they didn't. None of the miners there worked under the union. They didn't know what safety was.
J REYNOLDS: Did the miners there make any complaints to the company beforegoing on strike? Did they make any formal complaints?
B REYNOLDS: Not that I know of. Just a union talked to the men and tried to getthem on the union.
J REYNOLDS: Did the union instigate the strike or was that something the men wanted.
B REYNOLDS: I'd say they had a hand in it, yeah. Cause they wanted their shareof the money too. Cause they got so much off of [unclear] without that mine. So the union had a big play in it too.
J REYNOLDS: Okay no when you were on thte picket line did you have a shift that3:00you worked, did you work any particular shift?
B REYNOLDS: Well you worked any time they wanted to call you out.
J REYNOLDS: They didn't call you out on a regular basis, you weren't there likeat say 4 o'clock in the afternoon to maybe midnight or something.
B REYNOLDS: Yes you had, I had shifts to pull and different ones you knowdifferent times. All different times. That way you didn't know when they was going to call you out to do anything. They'd call you out anytime if they wanted to.
J REYNOLDS: You say they wouldn't, maybe wanted you to do something, what wouldthey have you do if they called you out?
B REYNOLDS: Well if they wanted a tear something up of do anything I'd saythey'd call you out. Um.
J REYNOLDS: What did you do on the picket line to help pass the time?
B REYNOLDS: Played cards and pitched horse shoes,and whatever you, when ever4:00the guards wasn't shooting at you [laughs]
J REYNOLDS: Speaking of the guards that were shooting at you, what were some othere things that occurred between the striking miner and the individuals that were hired by the company?
B REYNOLDS: Well they shot at each other all the, about all the time.
J REYNOLDS: Did you ah, what did you do for cover?
B REYNOLDS: [laughs] Find the best cover you could fine [laughter]
J REYNOLDS: Ah, would they, did the shooting occur a lot?
B REYNOLDS: Quite a bit.
J REYNOLDS: Did it?
B REYNOLDS: It went on about every night.
J REYNOLDS: Who, who started the firing?
B REYNOLDS: Well you couldn't tell who started it.
J REYNOLDS: Just both sides were firing?
B REYNOLDS: They'd shoot, each side shooting each other.
J REYNOLDS: You know the picket line was hard on a lot of families, I'm sure itwas hard on the company too, for financial reasons as well. But ah, what kind of affect did it have on your finances?
B REYNOLDS: It had a lot to do with mine uh. Sure didn't help me none. If5:00anything it made it worse cause it would be hard we didn't go back to work right then. After the strike was over I had to leave and go to Pike county where, and I left my home and worked for the union before for Peabody coal company. Worked six years up there for them. And went over to Pike county and got in the same mess again with the union. [laugh] Walked picket over there for about three years.
J REYNOLDS: So you spent quite a bit of time on the picket line for the union.
B REYNOLDS: Six or seven years.
J REYNOLDS: How did you and mom make up the difference in, in, in your income,was there anything special that you did.
B REYNOLDS: Well she worked. She had a job she worked at restaurants and schools.6:00
J REYNOLDS: Did you do anything like that?
B REYNOLDS: Yeah I worked as a janitor for the school when I wasn't walking picket.
J REYNOLDS: When you was on the picket line wasn't was the hardest thing todeal with?
B REYNOLDS: I, I don't know. Most anything was hard to deal with there. Youdidn't; have much time to do no thinking cause what time you wasn't hiding and getting shot at you just running somewhere.
J REYNOLDS: I remember when I was playing basketball and me and the team we7:00were practicing after school and you'd left school early that day. You were the janitor up there where I went to elementary school and , and ah I noticed that a lot of state police cars were going in the back way to Justice mines and ah, when I came home found out that you were in the Williamsburg jail. What happened down there that day?
B REYNOLDS: Now I couldn't tell you it's been so long I've about forgot aboutit. I guess they hauled us all in the jail.
J REYNOLDS: I, I know that there was a lot of police cars going in and out that way
B REYNOLDS: Yeah
J REYNOLDS: And we were wondering what was going on. Of course we knew aboutthe strike, but we you know, Revelo school was far enough away you really didn't hear any shooting or anything but we just saw a lot of police cars and I was jut wondering what was happening down there.
B REYNOLDS: That was the time they took us all and throwed us all in jail. Idon't, I don't know what it was over or what it was about. It's been so[ laughing] long we maybe we [unclear] back.
J REYNOLDS: Do you remember the vote that ended the strike?
B REYNOLDS: No I , all I found out was that we had lost and I had to leave.8:00
J REYNOLDS: I read an article in the , the ah Lowville Currier Journal thatsaid that the un-united mine workers, Stearns company and the national labor relations board had come to an agreement and that they would allow 70 of Stearns miners to vote and 50 striking miners to vote. Ah, that vote took place in May of 1979 uh, why did the united mine workers allow the difference in the vote?
B REYNOLDS: Well I can't answer that because I didn't know nothing about no9:00such a deal as that. What kind of deal the union made with the company to get out of that strike or what, what happened, but and I'm sure none of the picket men knowed that went on neither.
J REYNOLDS: Well it was widely reported and in the papers at that time, um. I,you know, I just saw that in there and was rather curious why the union would have agreed to such a deal as that.
B REYNOLDS: I can tell you the only thing that I can think of, they wanted toget out of there and that was a good way to do it.
J REYNOLDS: While the union as there did they pretty much support you guys[cough b reynolds] did they help you guys out any at all?
B REYNOLDS: Well I can't say that they did. Cause all you see'd was maybe oneor two guys one in a while and how are they going to help [unclear] you a bunch of guards the company hired. They union ain't going to help you. They're just out for their selves.
J REYNOLDS: Were they paying you guys to walk picket?
B REYNOLDS: Yeah they paid us.
J REYNOLDS: What did they pay you?
B REYNOLDS: I don't even know now what it was. Don't even know how much.
J REYNOLDS: Wasn't much?10:00
B REYNOLDS: No it wasn't much.
J REYNOLDS: Was it worth getting shot at? [laughing]
B REYNOLDS: [laughing] No it wasn't.
J REYNOLDS: You said you spent seven years on the picket line.
B REYNOLDS: Yeah.
J REYNOLDS: Do you wish you'd have worked now?
B REYNOLDS: Yeah I wish I'd worked. I wish I'd never seen the union, beenbetter off.
J REYNOLDS: Well you know, I know that you always had been a union supporterand ah, what, what makes you take that attitude toward the union?
B REYNOLDS: Well cause you try to get something off of them see how they , how[unclear] good they are. See if they don't use everything in the book against you to knock you out of anything.
J REYNOLDS: You pretty well decided that the, the union let you guys down down there?
B REYNOLDS: I know they let us down. Same way they did us in Pike county. They11:00let us down over there too. And part of the men that was on this picket line here at Stearns was on the picket line at Pike county too. A bunch of them worked at Stearns.
J REYNOLDS: So they went from one picket line to another more or less?
B REYNOLDS: Yeah. Worked about a year and then went on strike over there inPike county. We was over there and it lasted about three years over there. And the union said ah get the union in all this time [unclear] company will count towards your pension. But I found that not to be true. When I filed for my pension that counted against me.
J REYNOLDS: When your time, during your time at Stearns, I know you workedthere in the early 60s and back again in the 70s, uh, did Stearns treat you fairly?
B REYNOLDS: They did me. They didn't do nothing unfair to me.12:00
J REYNOLDS: You knew, ah, Stearns was a small company and you knew a lot ofthe owners and the
B REYNOLDS: Yeah.
J REYNOLDS: People and bosses an things. It's kind of a tight community downhere. Uh do you wish now maybe that you hadn't gone on strike against Stearns?
B REYNOLDS: Yeah I wish I'd never seen the union. Been a lot better off if goneahead and worked.
J REYNOLDS: Do you think Stearns would have eventually given you guys more money?
B REYNOLDS: I'd say they would.
J REYNOLDS: Considering the strike, ah, knowing what it did to you and your13:00family and the families of those people that walked picket with you and the feelings that it caused between you and people who decided to cross the picket line tell its, tell me how you feel about all that.
B REYNOLDS: I forgot it myself. I don't hold nothing against no one.
J REYNOLDS: [unclear] You said before it wasn't worth your, worth it.
B REYNOLDS: No it ain't worth it. Even if you get people and stuff. There's alot of people in this county that wouldn't even speak to some of the miners down there after it was over.
J REYNOLDS: What were some of the things that happened, between you and some ofthe folks that maybe wouldn't speak to you. They just avoid you or cause any confrontations or problems?
B REYNOLDS: No cause I didn't stay around here you know. I left and went over14:00to Pike County and went to work over there. I didn't stay around here but I'm sure that they treated some of the men dirty.
J REYNOLDS: There was a death or two ah, that occurred during the strike, doyou remember anything about what might have happened to those people?
B REYNOLDS: No I sure don't cause I didn't have nothing to do with nothing likethat. And I can't remember who them guys was that died during that strike.
J REYNOLDS: I believe one. . . .
B REYNOLDS: Watson.
J REYNOLDS: There was ah, coal mine, ah truck driver, coal truck driver gotshot I believe.
B REYNOLDS: Cause I never done nothing like that and I wouldn't have. Now I15:00don't know a thing about that cause I wasn't with the guys that done it. And don't know who done it or if the union had anything to do with it I don't know because wasn't with that bunch.
J REYNOLDS: Well I know there was a lot of bad things that went on at thepicket line but was there any good things that happened, friends that you made on the picket line that you still keep in touch with?
B REYNOLDS: No I, I, knowed all the guys on the picket line and I liked all theguys and I though, I think they all liked me. I don't hold a grudge against none of them.
J REYNOLDS: Who were some of the guys that uh you still keep in contact withthat walked picket?
B REYNOLDS: With me?
J REYNOLDS: Um hm.
B REYNOLDS: You want names?
J REYNOLDS: Yeah.
B REYNOLDS: Jim Douglas, Lonny Jones, Joe Jones, ah Cletus Coffee , and Ray16:00Haymon, and there's a lot more if I can think of them.
J REYNOLDS: Of all these friends that you mentioned did ah. Did these men goback to mining or did they kind of drift away from it or what?
B REYNOLDS: Why they. Most of them went back to mining if they could get a job.Some of them went to Lyons Creek, some of them to Pike County, and some of them to Williamsburg, everyone just scattered out all over to hunt jobs. I think [unclear] went to Pike county with us too out in the hills down there [unclear] .
J REYNOLDS: Why did you go to Pike County, nothing any closer that you could work?
B REYNOLDS: No, Ray [unclear] was the one that got me to go to Pike County. He17:00knowed a guy that worked over there, got us to go over there and go to work. Went to work for that company in 79. It was the [unclear] coal company then but they changed the name to Sharondale when the union come in there, it's Sharondale. So ah, they got us to go out on strike there on Sharondale and struck out there and got the union in, worked one year and the company went, went out of business. Working on the union. They couldn't make it on the union.
J REYNOLDS: Dad I thank you for taking time to talk with me and ah, Iappreciate the interview. And uh maybe I can ah get you to help me talk to some of these other guys
B REYNOLDS: (unclear)
J REYNOLDS: Line up some of these.
B REYNOLDS: If you can talk to some of them. I guess there's a lot of them I'd18:00get interview. One thing there when I was working on the UMW in Pike county my son burned his leg and the union still won't even pay for the doctor bill that's turned in four or five times. That's your UMW for you.
J REYNOLDS: Well Dad thanks for the interview I appreciate it.
END OF INTERVIEW