Sandy Dorsey Women Coal Miners Make Gains Tyrone Daily Herald Jun 20th 1984
Women Coal Miners Make Job Gains CHARLESTON, W.Va. (UPI) The The recent flurry of news conferences and interviews for coal miner Sandy Dorsey have done more than just spark interest in the National Conference Conference of Women Miners, which begins Friday in Charleston. For Mrs. Dorsey, 28, of Martins Ferry, Ohio, the exposure has also made her realize that the public's idea of what life is like for women miners falls a bit short of what they really encounter. Sexual harrassment and discrimination still exist in the mines but "women are being accepted." she says. Mrs. Dorsey, who is a cochairman of the sixth annual conference, said she first starting working as a miner on April 24, 1979. and the problems she encountered were limited to just a few male miners. "The guys that didn't mind (a woman miner) just didn't say anything," she said. "But now they are talking up more. 1 think they have accepted us in the mines, more so than the society as a whole has." Mrs. Dorsey's described the dynamics of fitting in in what has been for years a men-only profession. "I let them know where I was coming from right away, and in my job performance they saw that 1 was capable and that I was pulling my own load and that 1 was there for the same reasons that they were." said Mrs. Dorsey. who was recently elected financial secretary of UMWA Local 1473. "They'll give you respect if you deserve it. but more or less sometimes you have to demand it. You have to be able to stand up tor yourself." she said. In her 2'j years of mining. Mrs. Dorsey found that women gained acceptance in the mines by never skirting responsiblities and proving they were capable. "There was always a guy. it seemed, that would offer to help with my work but 1 wouldn't let _him do that. If it took two people, then by all means I would get help," she said. "But I wouldn't let him do my job because that's what they'll judge you on." Her entry into the mines, however, was not free of sexual harrassment. She was a victim of the wellknown •peephole' incident at the Consolidation Consolidation Coal Co.'sShoemaker Mine near Moundsville. After discovering that they had been watched in their locker room for several months, she and other female workers filed a $5.5 million suit against the company. It was settled out of court in September 1982 for an undisclosed amount. Mrs. Dorsey believes many efforts at carving a place for women in the mines and in the coal union have been successful, but many challenges remain. "That's why the conference is so important," she said. "It brings men and women together working as members of one union. It allows us to learn the politics of it. we're getting involved."