Traditional coal miners’ vacation became formalized after 1950 with the establishment of the Bituminous Coal Operators Association to conduct collective bargaining with unionized mine workers. West Virginia’s coal miners overwhelmingly belonged to the United Mine Workers of America, and the union’s national contracts recognized the last week of June and first week of July as the mandated period for the annual miners’ vacation. With coal mining the dominant economic activity in the northern and southern regions of the state, the coming of miners’ vacation in those areas took on the atmosphere of a major holiday.
Vacation money combined with regular wages swelled the pay envelopes of miners. The time off and increased pocket money created a festive mood throughout coalfield communities. Spending increased dramatically as miners purchased items for home repairs or made preparations for vacation travel, fishing trips, or other excursions. Although many made use of the break to tackle large personal projects, ever-increasing numbers headed for summer vacation spots. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, became an overwhelmingly popular destination for Appalachian miners during this period. Some vacationing families visited relatives who had moved away to find work.
Coal companies had readily agreed to the mandated sabbatical because the industry needed at least one week for renovations and repairs, and miners’ vacation remained an integral component of West Virginia’s coal subculture well into the 1980s. By the close of that decade some major coal corporations had withdrawn from the BCOA and hoped to establish contracts with a more modern flexible work schedule. Accordingly, companies such as Pittston implemented a graduated leave policy, staggering vacations and allowing off only 10 percent of the work force at a time. The number of nonunion mines also increased, lessening the influence of centralized bargaining on vacation periods. Modern mechanized operations often demanded that annual furlough be taken in conjunction with the intricate and time-consuming moves of long wall mining machinery. Some of today’s West Virginia coal mines continue with the traditional vacation period.
This Article was written by Paul H. Rakes
Last Revised on October 20, 2010
Cite This Article
Rakes, Paul H. "Miners’ Vacation." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 October 2010. Web. 23 March 2017.