The decade of the 1950s was a period of massive change in the coal industry. Small coal operators were unable to keep up with the mechanization taking place in large mines owned by auto, steel and energy conglomerates and began to abrogate their union contracts to reduce costs. Roving Pickets looks at the consequences of this change in Eastern Kentucky: severely reduced wages, chronic unemployment, families divided by outmigration, and in 1961 and 1962, the cancelation of union health insurance benefits and the threatened closing of the UMWA hospitals. In this documentary, miners, coal operators and other participants recall the sometimes violent battle over jobs and healthcare, as well as the political system that focused national attention on the economic crisis in the Appalachian coalfields and stimulated President Johnson's interest in creating a War on Poverty. Roving Pickets raises questions about poverty and empowerment, equality of opportunity, and the process of political change.
Screenings & Festivals
Athens International Film Festival
Kentucky Educational Television
WSWP Beckley WV