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Other Traditions

Several traditions now center around the United Mine Workers, or Union. This includes the idea of striking. George Monas was the only miner to pick up on the striking lore. He said that "if someone threw their water on the ground, there would be no work that day." He also said that when a man was killed, the mine would be idle for twenty four hours. This folk practice is one that has translated into a law set by the United Mine Workers.

But there was another tradition that centered on a celebration for the Union. All of the informants discussed "Mitchell Day" or April First. This is based on John Mitchell a Union leader who created the eight hour work day for miners. Nick Massini mistakenly called it John Lewis day; while Vic Benco only knew it as the day of the eight hour work day. But all knew that April First is a traditional miners holiday.


These traditions are all confirmed by the Patch/Work Voices research. This book states:

"The act was very simple--a miner would spill the water from the lower half of his lunch pail on to the ground. This was done in anger, frustration, resentment, despair, or (in rare cases) joy....Usually the practice was premeditated; however, there were instances when it was done accidentally. Regardless of his motivation or intentions, the result of this simple, direct act was the same--a strike. This act is on which is indisputable indigenous to the mining culture and embodies elements which are both symbolic and real."

Mitchell Day is a day in which parades were traditionally held and was generally a big event for the entire mining community. The Brownsville (PA) Telegraph (March 31, 1986) states that "The first day of April is celebrated by miners throughout the United States in memory of Jon Mitchell and his attainment of the eight hour day for the coal industry. The institution of the eight hour day in 1898 is not only a landmark to the coal industry, but it is also an important milestone in the history of industry and organized labor in general in this country."

                                               

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