We've been seeing an awful lot of miners on television these nights. Without taking sides in the dispute, the one thing that comes across is that they're a tough breed and very free spirits. They don't like to be pushed around by anybody, including the government, the courts, the president of the United States or their own union leaders. If anyone orders them to do anything, they have no hesitation in telling them to "stuff it."
It is for this reason that I do not believe invoking the Taft-Hartley Act makes any sense in getting the coal miners working again. It was written to give everyone a cooling-off period in a major labor dispute. But in the case of the coal miners it's made them hotter than ever, and more determined to hold out against the mine operators.
I believe President Carter would be much further ahead of the game right now if they had gone on television last Thursday and announced that during the Taft-Hartley period no miners would be permitted to go back to work. He should have said that, as president of the United States, he would see to it that no one ton of coal left any shaft of a union-operated mine, even if he had to use troops.
He also might have said that if the miners attempted to go to work without a contract, he would fine the unions $10,000 a day and ask the courts to hold them in contempt.
Can you just see what would have happened if Carter had said that?
The miners would have been in high dudgeon.
They would have met in their union halls where their leaders would have broken the news to them.
"Carter says we can't mine coal unless we have a contract."
"Down with Carter."
"He says he' going to use the Taft-Hartley act to keep us out of the mines instead of going down inot them."
"No president of the United States is going to tell us when we can or cannot mine coal. If we want to mine it, we'll mine."
"He says he'll use troops and federal marshalls to keep us out."
"Let him try it. We'll break their heads with out pickaxes if they won't let us down in the shafts."
"We're sick and tired of the government telling us what's good for us. If they don't want us to mine, we'll dig out so much coal they'll choke on it."
"They'll have to build 50 new railroads to haul it all away."
"We'll dump tons of the White House lawn."
"Suppose our union president, Arnold Miller, says we can't go into the mines?"
"Then we'll dump him on the White House lawn with the coal."
All right then, are we agreed that if the court upholds the president and says we can't mine coal, we all go back to the pits?"
"We're ready now, even before the court acts. Let's go into the mines and show them who is really running this country."
"Any guy who refuses to mine coal gets his tires blown out."
"Are we going back into the mines?"
"Shout it so they can hear in the Oval Office!"
That's what President Carter should have done. But his problem is he doesn't watch enough television.