The film Matewan demonstrates the hard workof coal miners during the time of the early 1920’s in a fine sized town calledStone Mountain located in West Virginia. Being that everyone that resided in this town were primarily coal minersthey worked for the Stone Mountain Coal Company.
The company acted as the seigneur becausethey were superior to others due to the amount of authority they had. Along with the authority, the company had residentialareas, land, and also restaurants. Theresidents of this specific town had no other option but to work for the CoalCompany because it had exclusive control over every sense of capital there waswhich essentially created enslavement of the residents. Due to the fact that the miners had no choiceconcerning their choice of occupation, the company forced the miners into abondage contract. This being a pureillustration of a primitive component in a feudal system that the StoneMountain Coal Company clearly put upon this town. The Stone Mountain mine land never once receivedthe presence of the actual coal company owners, which were the ones who werereceiving the earnings produced by the coal.
The workers were completely in the dark as to what their circumstanceswere and who’s calls they were answering to. The reason is because they never saw the actual owners but instead the BaldwinFelts Detective Agency and their job was to assure the excavation of the coal,manage the corporation along with the manufacturing of the mine. In order for the company to be seen as athreat to the town of Stone Mountain it had to initiate dominance over the coalminers. Threats and intimidation weremajor components the Baldwin Felts Detectives used in order to create terror amongthe town to essentially influence the workers to do their job because otherthan the basics to survive they had almost no reason to. The Coal Company undermined the workers bypaying them very poorly and limiting their independence as customers.
What caused the enslavement for the minerswas the fact that they were forced into buying clothes, equipment, food, etc.from the company store which was typically more expensive than demanded. The entire purpose of forcing the workers tobuy from the company store was to ensure that the money the miners were earningwas being spent on the company store which would circulate back to the company.
The miners were very well determined when itcame to their work because they were doing it to provide for their families witheveryday necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing. They leaned on the company’s arm to providean adequate source of employment. Nevertheless, the company did depend on the workers, because with thelack of workers the company would have no practical work force to do theexcavation of the coal and actually carry on the manufacturing process. One remarkable role that was continuouslyplayed throughout the film was religion. It jointed the fellow citizens ofStone Mountain in spite of their ethnic differences.
Sermons were practiced in order to serve as away for the fellow citizens to converse with one another. One evening the Baldwin Felts Detectivesattended a service, not to show any sort of religious support, but to assurethat no one would ignite any rebellion against the coal company. Regular gatherings that caused for an abundanceof people were highly dejected because they caused for suspicion. Nonetheless, religion was a steady strength withintheir community.
Religion seemed to bequite amusing to the Baldwin Felts Detectives because belittling it by mimickingtheir practices. But in the end,religion was exactly what the miners needed in order to keep the communitypowerful and confident. Oncerealizing the tonnage value had lowered, the miner’s income was lowered as well.
The company owner’s intentions appeared toaccelerate income while trying to encourage the miners to continue working butthis obviously backfired. The miners ordereda strike against the company to fight the maltreatment and unlawful acts. A union was then formed for the miners to beable to show that what they believed in was the only way they would work ifaccepted. Although, Joe Kenehan, thelabor organizer, was demoralized because of a spy within the union putting outfalse accusations about him. The loss ofloyalty began to circulate and this caused for the union to lose their bond.
A powerful stance had to be upheld by theunion in order for them to go into battle and actually have a chance. Matters had to be taken into the miner’s handsbecause reality settled in and that was the realization that the union wasbeginning to diminish. By doing so, theminers took it upon themselves to fight the Baldwin Felts Detectives and theircrew alone. With no history on battlestrategies, the workers still went after what they wanted because they had suchwill, bravery and the pure hunger for independence. The battle concluded with no lack in authorityfrom the coal company and many deaths on both ends of the battle but the deathshad little to no effect on the company. Thisillustrates the fact that the company does in actuality have ownership of theminers lives.
All the hard work andfinancial income that was provided by the workers were still only in thecompany’s advantage, leaving the company with the utmost authority in the townof Matewan.