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    "The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people."
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    :: Thursday, March 06, 2008 ::

    Hawks Nest worker graves lay forgotten for decades - By Rick Steelhammer, The Charleston Gazette
    Jim Crow laws of that era prohibited black workers from being buried in "white" cemeteries. Since there were no official black cemeteries nearby, some of the first African-American workers to die in the tunnel are believed to have been buried next to a slave cemetery behind Summersville Presbyterian Church, according to Hartman's research.

    But the growing number of African-American deaths created the need to find a burial ground in the vicinity of the construction site.

    "The contractors knew they were exposing people to something that would kill them, but they hired them anyway, but only for short periods of time," said Hartman. "That way, the workers could leave the area and die someplace far from the source of their illness. The average time a worker remained was 15 weeks. With the Depression, there were more than enough replacements."

    But the Hawks Nest tunnel workers began getting sick within six to eight weeks on the job, making the need for an efficient way to dispose of the bodies even more acute for the contractor.
    Jordan Barab writes via email: This Charleston Gazette article chronicles one of the most tragic stories in the history of workplace safety (or workplace murder): The death of 764 mostly African-American workers from exposure to silica while digging a tunnel in West Virginia in the early 1930's. You can also view a short video clip about the disaster (which also stars Rush Holt's father – who was then a Senator from WV): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUL6nnJO-6Q

    It's taken from a 27 minute video called "Can't Take No More," which you can view on Google Video here.
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