Mineworkers at the Pittston Coal Company went on strike on April 5, 1989. The company had unilaterally made cuts to workers’ health care and ceased providing health care benefits to about 1,500 retirees, widows, and disabled miners. It had also stopped contributing to the a benefit trust for miners who had retired before 1974—and it refused to bargain in good faith over the issues. In an effort to boost profits, the company had kept the mines running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It was a long—but ultimately successful—strike for the United Mine Workers Union, under the leadership of president Rich Trumka (now president of the AFL-CIO), affecting mines in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. In addition to striking, mineworkers and their families engaged in civil disobedience, occupied company facilities, and staged protests, and rallies. Up to 2,000 miners stayed at the union’s “Camp Solidarity” to support the strike; tens of thousands more sent donations and staged wildcat strikes. Women supporters organized the Daughters of Mother Jones and became an essential part of the eventual victory.
The settlement reached on February 20, 1990 reinstated the health and retirement benefits and required the company to pay about $10 million into the retirement plan for the pre-1974 miners. The union agreed to let the mines operate seven days a week as long as they were closed from 8am–4pm on Sundays; miners would also work a rotating schedule that allowed for reduced hours.