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Title: Interview with Joe E. Jones Identifier: 1997oh036 Date: 09 Dec 1996 Interviewer: Jerrell Reynolds Project: Blue Diamond/Stearns Coal Mining Strike

[This interview is of very poor sound quality. There is a loud knocking through most of it and the voices are difficult to hear because they are very low]

JERRELL REYNOLDS: The following is an unrehearsed taped interview wih Joe E. Jones who is a miner at the time of the Blue Diamond coal strike at Stearns in the 1970s. The interview was conducted by Jerrell Reynolds a student at Eastern Kentucky University as part of the Blue Diamond coal mine strike oral history project. The interview was conducted at Marshes Sideing in Kentucky on December 9, 1996 at about 7:30 pm. Joe, thanks again for letting me come over and talk to you. I appreciate this second interview. Ah, would you please state your full name.

JOE JONES: Joe E Jones


REYNOLDS: Joe could you give me a history of your work there for Stearns.

JONES: Well, I didn't , I've worked about two or three years at that mine.

REYNOLDS: What did you do while you was there Joe?

JONES: I was, um mostly ah caught supplies, caught supplies [unclear] fellows 1:00that worked with it.

REYNOLDS: you was in and out of the mines?

JONES: Yeah went out to get parts for old piece of machinery that broke down I had to go all the way outside for part.

REYNOLDS: Is that what you did all day long Joe? That was your job pretty much all the time?

JONES: Yeah. [unclear]

REYNOLDS: What was your work conditions like there at Stearns Joe?

JONES: They were real poor, that's kind of what we going on strike for to start with, uh safety problems.

REYNOLDS: What were some of the safety problems you had there?

JONES: Well, bad roof in there and they wouldn't, they wouldn't support it like they should.

REYNOLDS: Well how was a bad roof a problem. What kind of a problem would you 2:00guys run into if the roof were to fall?

JONES: Well the problem was the rock [unclear] men were all in there

REYNOLDS: SO did it keep men from going in and out if the roof was to fall?

JONES: Well the roofs had to change [unclear] finally they'd clean it up.

REYNOLDS: Prior to the time that Stearns sold the mine and moved out when Stearns still running it did you have a lot of problems with management there?

JONES: Well, no I didn't they were rough on some people.

REYNOLDS: What was some of the problems you were having? What would they do?

JONES: Well they just expected more out of you than you could do. Sometimes.

REYNOLDS: After they made the sale to Blue Diamond did the situation change any?


JONES: No not that I know with them. change [unclear] .

REYNOLDS: Um, before the strike did the men make any type of complaints to the company about safety problems?

JONES: Ah, yeah they did all that all the time.

REYNOLDS: All the time, you mean, like every day they would talk to them about it.

JONES: Yeah, there was 2 or three people you know of got killed every [unclear] month.

REYNOLDS: Stearns never came to fix the safety hazards or anything?

JONES: No they'd just go in and support it a little bit and that was the only 4:00set back.

REYNOLDS: Was you a part of the McCreary miners union Joe?

JONES: This was before the strike

REYNOLDS: Before the strike yeah


REYNOLDS: Did that union attempt to help you all in any way before you went on strike?


REYNOLDS: What was the problem with the McCreary miners union?

JONES: [laugh]Oh ah, there may has well not been a union I didn't know, I didn't even know if they had any officer or what they had [unclear] union. You couldn't tell any difference.

REYNOLDS: United mine workers got involved with the uh strike down there, do you recall how they got involved in it?

JONES: Well it's, some of the miners called them in, got them to come in you 5:00know, to come in and help with the people.

REYNOLDS: Do you recall the vote that, ah, brought the united mine workers in, do you remember them winning the election pretty handily?

JONES: Yeah.

REYNOLDS: What would you say the percentage of men voted for the union?

JONES: Ah, it was I think it was about 80 percent. [sniff]

REYNOLDS: When you walked picket line down there Joe, ah, tell us about a typical oh day on the picket line, what did you do down there?

JONES: Well wasn't nothing to do mostly. [laugh]

REYNOLDS: Pretty, was it quiet?

JONES: yeah part of the time. After they put the guards in they was shooting at us [laughing]

REYNOLDS: Was that Storm security?

JONES: Storm security.

REYNOLDS: Problems started after they got there? Had you had any problems prior to that time.

JONES: No. peaceful. Then they brought them in there.


REYNOLDS: Ah, were the men were pretty well respectful of Stearns property up until that time?


REYNOLDS: You all didn't try to stop anybody from going in and out?

JONES: No just [unclear] company personal [sniff]

REYNOLDS: Um, were there any negotiation during the strike? To you're all's knowledge that could have gotten everything over and done with?

JONES: Well ah, they negotiated a little bit they had some [unclear] Still it would have helped [unclear].

REYNOLDS: Um do you feel, what do you feel the major cause of the strike?

JONES: Well it wasn't over the pay it was just mainly over the safety.

REYNOLDS: Were the company's unwillingness to negotiate prior to the contract 7:00being up part of the reason too?


REYNOLDS: Do you know of any attempts by the company prior to the end of your contract to work at a agreement with you fellows.

JONES: No, they just started hiring strike breakers.

REYNOLDS: Did ah, prior to you all going out on strike did ah Blue Diamond discuss the possibility of what would happen to you all if you all went on strike?

JONES: Well we, they told us, we got rumors that, you know they'd said they was going to shutting down, you know.

REYNOLDS: Do you think that, ah, Blue Diamond treated you fellows fairly?

JONES: Huh, no.

REYNOLDS: [unclear]


JONES: they had, they were the owners of the Scotia mine and it was full of gas just like our mine was. But it keep getting ventilated and it blowed up.

REYNOLDS: Was that a concern with you fellows?


REYNOLDS: What had happened at Scotia

JONES: We never did have proper ventilation or nothing.

REYNOLDS: United, United mine workers came in did, ah, they treat you fellows pretty fairly?


REYNOLDS: Tell us some of the things united mine workers did for you all.

JONES: Well they supported us up two years, two and a half [sniff]. Well 9:00finally I think they just sold us out. Blue Diamond had them sued for so many million dollars I think. They just pulled out and left us to get rid of that I think.

REYNOLDS: Now do you ah. Can you tell me anything about the Southern Labor union?

JONES: Well, I worked under it once when I started for Wess Coal.

REYNOLDS: How, how involved were they with the strike in Stearns?

JONES: Well I didn't see no support at all.

REYNOLDS: Thinking back about the strike,ah , what do you think the lasting affects of the strike would be on McCreary county?

JONES: Well it was pretty devastating then that's, that's about the only thing that was around here. People who work [unclear] have nothing left.

REYNOLDS: You think ah, strike being [unclear] had a bearing on things activates 10:00still going on today?

JONES: It probably does. It just hurt a lot of people.

REYNOLDS: What affect did it have on you and your family Joe, the strike?

JONES: Well It hurt us. It hurt us bad [cough] a few years too.

REYNOLDS: Do you have any regrets at all about walking the picket and if so what would it be?

JONES: Well yeah, I [unclear] I doubt if I'd ever do it again.

REYNOLDS: Ah talk about the bosses, tell us a little about how, the way they treated you before the strike.

JONES: Well. Some of them was fair. You know others they pushed the men real 11:00hard they would do it all of a sudden.

REYNOLDS: Tell me about some of the safety problem there you had down there at Stearns. You mentioned the tops, were there any other safety problems?

JONES: Yeah, gas. The mine would get real gas [sniff] ventilation was real poor.

REYNOLDS: Why was gas a problem in the mine why was that a problem?

JONES: Well scared all the time of explosions.

REYNOLDS: Was there, are explosion the only thing happens with gas?

JONES: Well yeah I guess it was gas really.

REYNOLDS: Now is gas the same thing as black damp?



REYNOLDS: Was that a problem at Stearns, black damp, or anything like that.

JONES: Well they had some people get killed, you know, in mines but not that particular mine not from black damp.

REYNOLDS: Had you had you known any other problems like that in the mines there?

JONES: No they were [unclear] never had any in there.

REYNOLDS: Several of the men have mentioned the elevator, could you tell me anything about the elevator over there?

JONES: Yeah it was really dangerous. [laugh] It could fall hundreds of feet with you.

REYNOLDS: Did you have to spend a lot of time on the elevator?

JONES: Yes I did I went in and out more than any of the rest of them, I would go outside to get parts and stuff so that's.

REYNOLDS: Pretty scary ride Joe?


JONES: Yeah it was. I was scared of it.

REYNOLDS: What , what was the major problem with the elevator?

JONES: I don't know it just it, falling so much.

REYNOLDS: Someone had said something about the door being open do you recall that?

JONES: Yeah. Yeah in part that would go up and down would pull doors open there. The shaft was something like 500 feet deep.

REYNOLDS: So you were just hanging there more or less?


REYNOLDS: dropping so many feet at the time. Ah, what did you do after the strike Joe?

JONES: I just left and got work elsewhere. Went to Pike county

REYNOLDS: Went on strike there soon, soon after you got there too didn't they?

JONES: Well a year or two.


REYNOLDS: Might have been [unclear] strike [unclear] you feel like, did you feel that way while you was working the mines?

JONES: Yeah, it seemed like it was following me [laughing] And probably it was[laughing]

REYNOLDS: A strike ain't no funny business but ah really.

JONES: No, you've got, if it's what you believe then you stand up for what you believe.

REYNOLDS: Well, if you were running the show back then in the strike days what would you have done different to tried to put an end to the strike.?

JONES: Well they, they could have worked with the union a bit. The union they 15:00worked with them [unclear] done better. But after the strike was over they helped with the people to get work in so they really done, done better then after the strike was over with.

REYNOLDS: Do you think the strike caused them to change that stuff?

JONES: Yeah I think so. [unclear] REYNOLDS: If, ah, your son was working in the mines what would you tell him about the union and strikes what type of advice would you give?

JONES: [chuckling] I'd just tell him to stay out of it as much as he could.


JONES: I really got hurt in it.

REYNOLDS: So you don't feel like you'd walk picket again unless you had to?

JONES: If it were a have to case [laughing]


REYNOLDS: What would what would make you have to case

JONES: Family [unclear]

REYNOLDS: Joe buddy I thank you for your time. I appreciate you giving me a second interview ah very helpful I thank you a lot.

JONES: [sniff]