Working conditions in coal mines were not regulated by most coal companies.  Miners worked long hours in cramped spaces for very little pay and faced the constant danger of tunnel collapses or mine explosions.  Unions such as United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) brought workers and their families together to fight for better wages and working conditions.

“Aunt” Molly Jackson lived in Harlan County, Kentucky.  She was an avid supporter of miners’ rights, showing open disdain for coal companies.  When one company locked the miners (including her husband) out of the mines, she robbed the company store at gun point in order to feed starving children in the camp.  She was a member of the United Mine Workers and wrote many protest songs, including “Join the C.I.O” (also known as “I Am a Union Woman”), which was released by the Library of Congress in 1972.

"I am a union woman
Just as brave as I can be
I do not like the bosses
And the bosses don't like me

Join the CIO
Come and join the CIO

I was raised in Kentucky
In Kentucky borned and bred
And when I joined the union
They called me a Russian red

Join the CIO
Come and join the CIO"