The United Mine Workers of America, 1970: A House Divided

Director: Dan Mohn, J. Benjamin Zickafoose
Release Year: 1971
Running Time: 13:44
Original Format: 16mm Film
Color / B&W: bw

“If the rank and file membership don’t take over their local unions and elect officers got some guts, they might as well throw up their hands and quit, for they got nothin’ now, not like it was when we organized.”

‑Disabled UMWA miner

In 1970, W.A. (Tony) Boyle, was president of the United Mine Workers of America, under indictment for misuse of union funds and suspected of the murder of Jock Yablonski (the most outspoken advocate for reform of the union) and his family. UMWA 1970 intercuts a speech given by Boyle at a miners’ rally in Big Stone Gap, Virginia in the summer of 1970 with scenes at a mine and interviews with working and disabled miners. The film contrasts Boyle’s statements with those of the reform movement then growing among the union rank and file. Recommended for classes in U.S. and labor history.

This film was preserved by Appalshop Archive with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation. To support the work of preserving and safeguarding Appalshop’s collections, please consider making a donation to Appalshop Archive.

Festivals and Screenings

Museum of Modern Art

Walker Art Center


Reviews

“A first‑rate film that captures the real spirit of rank and file coal miners fighting to clean up their union. It’s the kind of film that only people who lived with that struggle day in and day out could have made.”

‑Don Stillman, United Auto Workers

“Scenes of mines, tipples, and details of the union picnic help portray the condition of the union in 1970.

‑Carl Fleischhauer, Journal of American Folklore

“Presents the side of the Appalachian mineworkers who feel the UMW hasn’t done much for them, and that no one but themselves can.”

‑Pat Aufderheide, The Minnesota Daily