The Harlan County USA

In the 1970’s in the United States, people suffered from huge economic down tone due to the oil crisis and American companies’ weakness of producing power to compete foreign companies. An American steel company which had been the most powerful industry in the world before, a car industry and many other jobs started declining, so those companies tried cutting down wages and keeping away from labor unions. People had no choice to work with minimum wages and harsh work conditions, and a labor union became less influential than before. The movie “Harlan County USA, directed by Barbara Kopple, well described the situations of a conflict between unionized workers and a coal company at the beginning of the 1970’s.

The movie starts in Harlan County, Kentucky where unionized coal miners at the Duke Power Company strike against the company to demand safer working condition and decent wages. In fact, even though the company’s profit increased, the miners live in dirty conditions, and some workers suffer from pneumoconiosis because of coal dust. The strike gradually becomes bloody that one labor union worker is associated, and both the strikers and people at the company side show off their guns. Actually, this action is the key that the local administration and/ or government don’t fully intervene in this matter. Finally, the company compromises with strikers, but the contract doesn’t cover all of striker’s insistence. This circumstance is very similar to gang’s condition in the 1970’s in the Bronx because the government abandoned them, and gangs knew that they had to improve their conditions by themselves.