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Matewan And Norma Rae Essay

915 words - 4 pages

Matewan and Norma Rae

Theoretically, the characters of both Matewan, and Norma Rae take part in a capitalistic society. In both situations the people are partaking in a form of labor market, where they are selling their time and energy. However, the town of Matewan, governed by the Stone Mountain Coal Companies' monopoly on the land and businesses, and isolated by distance and limited technology, as fallen into a feudalistic condition. Despite the fact that Norma Rae's small hometown of Alabama bears a great resemblance to the town of Matewan, their economic situation remains a form of capitalism. Though the Henely Mill is a dominating force in the small town, with a strong financial hold over the citizens, it is not as dictatorial of the society as the Stone Mountain Coal Company is over Matewan.

In signing the Stone Mountain Coal Company's contract the coal miners did not simply agree to sell the company their time and labor; they signed away their lives. In a capitalistic society one goes to work in an industry of their choosing, is compensated with a fair wage. In such a society the business one works for has no authority over where their workers eat, sleep, or spend their leisure hours. However, the town of Matewan is trapped under the hegemonic power of the coal company. The coal company has a monopoly over the predominant natural resources in the area. Their ownership is not only limited to the coalmines, but to the general store, and the much of the town's housing. Within the bonding contract of the mine workers are forbidden to buy their supplies from anywhere other than the general store, and are forced to reside in the coal company's housing. The coal company enforces this by paying their workers in company script, which can only be redeemed at the company owned businesses. The coal company therefore has ultimate control over the inflation of the market; they are able to play both sides of the board by escalating the prices of goods and housing, while lowering the labor income, ultimately reaping a higher profit at the drastic expense of the workers.
When new miners arrive in the town of Matewan, they are automatically in debt to the company store for the equipment need to begin working. Throughout the life of the coal miners they are at the mercy of the company's scams and whims. Coal mining is a dangerous operation; not only by chance of mishap, but the coal miners are in great risk of ill health due to the inhalation of coal dust, and the physical strain of working such a laborious trade. The coal company is insensible to the health concerns of the miners; individuals are irrelevant to the industrial company, and they are secure...

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