Mine Mule Used As A Hostage In A "Stay-Down Strike"
by David Kuchta

With Thanks to Michael Havrischak, Anthracite Coal Mine Historian

A mule named "Major" was used as a hostage in a strike or "stay down," as it was called. The strike was an unauthorized strike, which means the union didn't sanction it and also none of the union officials would back the men. Miners lived underground for seven days and seven nights. The sit down strike was called the "Strike of the Month," in the newspapers and on radio.

The sit down strike was held at the bottom level of Number 8 mine in Coaldale, PA. The Number 8 Mine is a sister mine to the nearby Number 9 mine. At the time they were engaged in opening up a new deep level in their mine and they wanted to be paid on a contract basis at 12 to 15 dollars a day instead of the $6.78 wage they were getting. The miners certainly picked the worst place to declare their intentions. The miners stayed in a chamber that was located in their new level 1,230 feet underground. They remained unmoved by the pleas of their families and of their United Mine Worker leaders, who deplored their contract breaking.

On the fourth day of the strike 7,500 other employees of the coal company went on strike in sympathy with their co-workers. Three days later, Governor George Earl arrived into town with a tentative agreement, went down the shaft, talked to the stay-downers and persuaded them to come back up to the surface. At the time, the men insisted that the Company should supply the mules with water, straw and hay. The miners who also made beds from the straw that they brought down for the mules also used the water. It's more than likely that the miners who brought down the water, hay and straw for Major the mule, probably smuggled food for the miners. They probably hid it inside the bales of straw. The miners played both Pinochle and darts which was very popular at that time.

The rest of the union miners had a large rally up at the Lansford High School stadium. There they hung effigies of the union officials. The effigies were of the Labor Relations Director, the District President and two organizers of the United Mine Workers of America's Union who had refused to sanction the strike, or stay down, as some people called it. There is one thing that everyone has to admit, and that is that the United Mine Workers stuck together like no other Union in the country. Major was then used at the Number 9 Mine where later, he was hit by a loaded mine car inside the mine. Being he received a broken hip he had to be put away by the Company Veterinarian, Dr. Weaver of Andreas.

Source: http://www.tccweb.org/pennsylvania.htm#Mine_Mule_Used_As_A_Hostage_In_A_Stay-Down_Strike