Labor and the Economy

Labor and the Economy

UWMA miners and Bamazon in solidarity on the picket line. Day 1 of the UMWA Strike, Warrior Met Coal, Brookwood, Alabama. April 2nd, 2021. Photo: Brett Wallace

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

Sunday morning, April 4th, 20201. UMWA on Strike – I will update this post as events unfold.

While the Bamazon Union votes are validated and counted, more than 1,100 miners have gone on strike in Brookwood, Alabama. The miners are members of UMWA Local Unions 2245, 2397, 2368, and 2427 working at the Warrior Met Mine. The site, of which there are numerous mine sites, is about 30 miles south of where I am staying in Bessemer, Alabama. This is the first strike at this mine in 40 years and it’s over wages and working conditions as company executives and investors reap profits from the production of coal and methane.

The current UWMA collective bargaining agreement expired on April 1st, 2021. Miners went on strike at 10:30 pm that night. I spent Friday and Saturday at one of the mines meeting workers, joining the picket line, and documenting what’s happening on the ground.

UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts stated, “We are working to reach a fair and equitable agreement that recognizes the hard work and significant sacrifices our members at Warrior Met made to save this company and these jobs.”

“Because of their productivity, these professional, experienced miners have brought the company out of bankruptcy and made Warrior Met the successful company it is today.”

Washing Station at site #5. Warrior Met Coal, Brookwood, Alabama. Photo: Brett Wallace.

I learned from miners that the site is open year-round except Thanksgiving and Christmas with workers on the job 6 days a week. This mine has stayed open throughout COVID-19 and workers were notified in a letter they were “essential” in case they were out after the 10:00 pm curfew.

There are specialty jobs at the mine site. For those going into the mine, the workers at the site I have visited told me they take cage 4 minutes below ground, then take man buses 45 minutes into the site. There are several jobs, executed in sequential orders, such as cutting, drilling, and rock bolting to extract the mine and secure the area. Another site I visited was mined out and now functions as a washing station before the pure coal is loaded onto CSX freight cars.

After the first night of the strike, when I got back to the hotel, I noticed 5 CSX trucks in the parking lot. These are CSX managers who have been brought in to run the trains because CSX union freight operators won’t take their trains over the picket line.

The Alabama State Police are present at several picket lines to keep the roads clear. Shuttle buses and school buses are transferring strikebreakers to portals to enter the mines. The picket lines are out 24/7 to discourage strikebreakers from crossing the line.

This company counts Apollo Global Management as an investor of which Leon Black (MoMA Director) founded. Hyperallergic has reported on Leon Black’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein and his departure from the MoMA Board.

Screenshot from

I will update this post with information on where you could send resources for the picket line. For now, here is the Facebook account for the union –

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

By Brett

New-York based artist