UMWA 1970: A House Divided (Film)

UMWA 1970: A House Divided

  •  Ben Zickafoose and Dan Mohn
  •  1971
  • Black and White IconBlack & White
  •  13:44
  •  16 mm film
Film Description
“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 the most outspoken advocate for reform of the union, Jock Yablonski, as well as his family. UMWA 1970: House Divided 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. UMWA 1970 will be useful for classes in U.S. and labor history, and of interest to anyone who wants to see internecine union conflict up close.

Screenings & Festivals
  • Museum of Modern Art and 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.” — United Auto Workers
“Scenes of mines, tipples, and details of the union picnic help portray the condition of the union in 1970.” — 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.” — The Minnesota Daily