Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hope for Peace (Matewan)

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In the film 'Matewan', created in 1987 by John Sayles demonstrates the struggle of Union workers for a better and appropriate working environment. The story of the coal mines of Matewan describes a clash between the owner and the workers. The Stone Mountain Company owns everything in the town of Matewan. The working conditions were harsh and the economic stresses on the workers are very brutal. With the unfair treatments and loss of skillful workers are free of doubt at the fact of not returning to work until demands are met. With different ethnicities coming together to overcome these hardships, there are many different approaches that the Union can make. With the help of Joe Kenehen, a Union organizer, these obstacles and trusts are overcome and built. To achieve the rights workers have to perform. There are many ways, but the Union that establishes in Matewan is forced to change tactics when the company pushes them top violence. With the Martyrdom of Hillard, a young boy, the Union’s approach to peaceful protest alters into the lat resort of violence.

The life of a coal miner is dangerous and hazardous. Many widowed wives of this town lost their husband by mining accidents, for example, Danny’s mother Elma Radner and Birdie Mae Tolliver, the woman by the train. Elma Radner tells the story on how her husband died by the cave-in of the mines. She describes how the men tried to survive by digging their way out with their bare hands, but sadly and tragically, they die with the mark of their bloody hands on the cave walls. With these unfair conditions and loss of friends, family, and money the miners start to speak up. The company still needs workers to carry on the jobs so they hired African-Americans and immigrants (“scabs”) to replace them with less pay. At first the Union is divided, the West Virginia miner vs. the “scabs”. The Virginia miners are afraid that they are here to break up the Union, so they exclude them from the Union. But Joe makes it clear that the Union is open to all and that by excluding them only makes this organization a club. The minds of the miners change when they thought Johnson, the leader of African-Americans workers would lead the “scabs” to work but their trusts are built by Johnson and the others walking out. The company will not stand for this, so they hire the Baldwin thugs to evict the families out of their homes. This is the start of the peaceful protest.

With their houses being evicted, the stores and houses belonging to the company they go in search of a new land to call their own. As the peaceful protest begins the company will not just watch, so they send a spy, C.E. Lively to infiltrate the organization, but later gets caught the message of Danny. When the strike is started the different ethnicities, African-American, immigrants, and Americans, start to learn about each other, their cultures and beliefs. They start to work together by building houses and tents for each other and playing a game like baseball that represents teamwork. They start to respect and watch out for each other which build up to the sense of safety that they feel when they are together. Even with the Sense of unity there are points that they do not get out to the company. They are not making a strong statement; this becomes a clash between Joe and the union members.

The sense of safety is tested by the shooting by the Baldwin thugs which the Union members can become easily targeted, luckily no one died. With a thread, represented by Joe holds the Union member from the verge of violence it is quickly broken off by this incident. But the pursuit of peaceful protest is changed by the martyrdom of Hillard, a young miner. Because of the cold nights outside of their houses they need coal to heat up the fire. Hillard and Danny go to the coal mine to get the coals. Unfortunately they are caught by the thugs which kills Hillard because he gave out dead miners name instead of the Union representatives. This pushes the Union to a violent act towards the company.

The violent protest starts when there is a shoot out in the town near where the railroad is located. This action gave a great sense of control because of the death of the Baldwin thug. Also, this set out a great statement to the company. But the loss is very dramatic. The shoot out cause many deaths of the thugs and innocent workers like Joe Kenehen and the sheriff. Because of the death of these determined workers their cause became known and this sent many examples for other future strikes in the Union.

At the end the preacher, Danny speaks of what happens after the death of these workers. He explains that they ended up back in the mines with a compromise of the company and the workers. Also he quotes, “The cause of the Union was a religion” that he began to believe in the purpose and the cause of the Union movement. Danny’s voice is older and huskier which explains that he’s telling his past and his experience in the Union. Also, this shows that he is telling his history to other people for future knowledge of this historical movement.


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