Labor and the Economy

Labor and the Economy

A Sign Outside Mine #5, Warrior Met Coal, Brookwood, Alabama. May 5, 2021. Photo: Brett Wallace

This is an ongoing series about labor and the U.S. economy.

Friday morning, May 7, 2021.

The National Labor Relations Board began the post election objections hearing this morning with Amazon and the RWDSU. I listened in from Birmingham, Alabama where I continue to document the union drive, a historic union event that has been unfolding before our eyes.

Meanwhile, 40 miles south of Birmingham in Brookwood, Alabama, Mine workers from the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) are still on strike at the Warrior Met Mine. This is the first strike at this mine in 40 years as the miners are fighting for a fair contract after pulling Warrior Met out of bankruptcy five years ago. My last post included my observations from the picket line. Stay tuned for a video I have coming out documenting this strike.

Warrior Met is not only growing its horrendous labor record and lack of compassion for its workers, but local environmentalists believe the company is polluting the many local creeks surrounding the mines boundary lines. Many of the workers live in the local community because Brookwood is and has always been a mining town.

Earlier this week, on Wednesday, May 5, I visited a spot under a railroad bridge where Texas Creek flows into Davis Creek nearby mine 7. Mine 7 is one of the underground mines in Brookwood owned and operated by Warrior Met. John Wathen, local creekkeeper for Hurricane Creek, dropped me a pin so I could easily find the site – which is about a 1/2 mile in from the train tracks. Upon viewing the creek, I saw the black substance that is polluting these creeks first hand. I also took a small sample of the water and soil. did some in-depth reporting on the situation the preceding day. You can read their article here.

Here is sample footage I took on Wednesday, May 5 under the railroad bridge where Texas Creeks flows into Davis Creek.

Locals in the neighborhood traced the source back to Texas Creek and noticed a black sheen pouring from the woods into the creek. They also noticed it coming over a spillway on Warrior Met’s property.

Warrior Met is an underground mine. Workers take an elevator 2,000 feet into the ground – these are deepest mines found anywhere in the country. While the mining takes place out of sight, what is visible is the waste from the process. One individual pointed me to a potential source of the substance – a gigantic mound of rock the size of a small ski mountain sitting atop a slurry that has been extracted from the mine during the coal mining process over the last 40 years.

Later that evening, I met up with Patrick Herring, who grew up near the creek and lives near it today. Patrick told me Warrior Met has not yet acknowledged their role in the situation. He has filed complaints with the EPA, Alabama Mining and Surface Commission, and other authorities to alert them of the situation.

I reached out to Warrior Met for a statement on the matter, but did not hear back yet. I will update this post with any further details.

You can follow news about the strike and the UMWA on Twitter.

Follow future updates on social media or add your email here.

By Brett

New-York based artist