Just Another Mouthy Union Woman [Linda Raisovich-Parsons in West Virginia]

By Sadasivam, Bharati | New Internationalist, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Just Another Mouthy Union Woman [Linda Raisovich-Parsons in West Virginia]


Sadasivam, Bharati, New Internationalist


Linda Raisovich-Parsons, 39, a miner from West Virginia, was among the first of her generation to go into the mines and the first female mine-safety inspector in the US. She spoke to NI at her office in Washington DC.

'I first went into the mines in August 1976. I was 18 years old and had just finished high school There was not a whole lot of career opportunities for a girl back then in West Virginia! My father was a coal miner. He had multiple sclerosis and I didn't want to burden him with the expense of a college education.

We'd had an oil embargo since the early 1970s; coal was booming and companies were hiring. The wages were 550 to 560 a day, which was good money at that time.

So I went to work with my dad. Initially, he didn't like the idea because he didn't want his daughter working in that kind of environment. But when he saw that I was not just testing the waters and was determined to make a go of it, he taught me the ropes and looked out for his baby daughter. Working side by side, we developed a close bond and we used to talk about problems in the mine. I think he thought it was neat to have someone else in the family, besides his brothers, to talk with about his occupation.

There was a lot of heavy lifting and carrying to do and that was what I found the most difficult. Most of the men took the position that well, if you're here, you've got to pull your weight and I was determined that no one was going to prove I wasn't able to do the job.

By the 1980s, women had got a foothold in the mining industry: there were over 3,000 women working at one point. They took a look at the union [United Mine Workers of America] and said, "Hey, where are we represented there? You've got all these white male faces." They knew I was really active in the local union in my area and offered me the job of safety inspector. …

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