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‘A Snake’
The Company Store, Always in A Hole by Arthur Vincent Ciervo, pages 77-88

“Saint Peter, don’t call me

Because I can’t go.

I owe my soul to the company store.”

-Tennessee Ernie Ford, 16 Tons

“It’s not but slavery, comrades,

To mine this precious coal

It takes away your manhood

And it’s tiresome to your soul.”

-Harry Rager

The information on miner’s pay and mining town economics comes mostly from the later period in the early 1900s, but the proportions do not seem to have been effected by inflation over the decades. Indeed, mining unions fought more for the reversal in pay reductions than for the increased pay I saw when I was a kid in Pennsylvania. In the 1970s coalminers made great money, but the jobs were going away, being mechanized. The grandfathers of those men were terrorized industrial slaves, whose families were often—especially early on—held hostage in company towns, policed by goons who had such methods as driving their horse between two speaking women and beating the children of miners who violated the 9 p.m. town curfews.

Not only did companies have the authority to hire their own police but to issue currency as well!

The currency was only redeemable at the company store, but the company money was only worth 3 for every 5 government dollars. Many miners never made any money. The entire system was an updated version of the time slave system upon which this nation was founded, by which a person never escaped an imposed debt cycle and would forever have to resell himself to an owner, until he no longer had value and was then consigned to starvation and the elements. A minor was paid in “scrip” credit that could only be paid back into the company system. The result, for many miners, of their wives and children buying on their credit while they were in the mine, was that they got paid with a “snake,” a squiggly line that indicated that no scrip was owed the miner.

Working for a credit line? Does that sound familiar?

Some miners were threatened if they took their scrip elsewhere, traded it for cash to people that wanted goods only available at the company store, and then used it for buying elsewhere:

“Joe, we’ve treated you right. Now that you have a little bit of money, you’re going to the Jew store. This is not right.”

-Vesta Pennsylvania Mine Foreman to Joe Budzanoski, 1920s

Pennsylvania, the Quaker slave colony, which sanction the sale of more Irish than any other English-American province, which that province alone, when it became a State, decided not to archive the evidence of its crimes for posterity. That lack of remorse, Quaker pioneering of the American correction system, and the natural resources of that coal-rich state, positioned it well forpioneering industrial slavery.

The Pale Usher

Impressions of Moby Dick: Herman Melville and Modern Man?s Transcendental Journey

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