An Italian immigrant, Salvatore worked 12 hours a days in waist-deep rancid water, the air fetid and filthy. Any day could be his last: Cave-ins and poisonous gas explosions commonly crushed the shafts carved into the West Virginia hillside. The pay was scarcely enough to feed his family. The squalid company-owned housing was worse. When he contracted a bacterial infection that eventually killed him, his older sons, ages 12 and 8, headed into the mines each day to support their mother and five siblings.
To the mining company, my grandfather Salvatore Quattrocchi was expendable. For his kids and millions of others in the mid-20th Century, however, their fight for fair wages and safe workplaces provided a pathway to the American dream. Unions helped make it happen. read more »