The miners' strike against Pittston Coal in 1989-1990, which
spread throughout southwestern Virginia, southern West Virginia,
and eastern Kentucky, was one of the most important strikes in the
history of American labor, and, as Richard Brisbin observes, "one
of the longest and largest incidents of civil disorder and civil
disobedience in the United States in the second half of the
twentieth century." The company aggressively sought to break the
strike, and workers and their families used a variety of
tactics--lawful and unlawful--to resist Pittston's efforts as the
situation quickly turned ugly.
In "A Strike like No Other Strike: Law and Resistance during the
Pittston Coal Strike of 1989-1990," Richard Brisbin offers a
compelling study of the exercise of political power. In considering
the legal significance of the strike, Brisbin asks the larger
question of whether even extreme transgression or resistance can
fracture the "imagined coherence of the law." He shows how each
party in the strike invoked the law to justify its actions while
attacking those of the other side as unlawful. In the end, both
sides lost; although the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in
favor of the union, most of the strikers faced elimination of their
jobs and an ongoing struggle for pensions and health benefits.
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