There Is Power in a Pantry

Meet the women who nourished the longest strike in Alabama’s history.

IN THESE TIMES – LABOR, Kim Kelly, March 28, 2023 

If you’re one of the people who’s been following the Warrior Met Coal strike over the past 23 months, it’s almost certain that you’ve heard the name Haeden Wright. The 35-year-old mother of two is a teacher, an activist, an elected official, a coal miner’s daughter and a boss’s worst nightmare. She’s a vocal presence on social media, has given countless interviews, and has participated in panels and other public events in an effort to direct attention to the strike. 

But the first time I met Wright was before all that. It was April 2021 and we were standing in a forest clearing in Alabama’s Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, surrounded by 1,000 striking coal miners and their families. Wright had her four-month-old baby, Everly, on her hip, and was keeping one eye on her rambunctious six-year-old, Averi, who was ping-ponging around the field with a gaggle of other kids. 

Her husband, Braxton, had just gone on strike, walking out of the mines in Brookwood, Ala. on April 1 when contract negotiations between the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and the coal bosses broke down. Wright introduced me to her friends, Cheri Goodwin and Connie Jones, whose husbands were also part of the strike. The three women had only just begun thinking about ways they could support the strike; they, like many others, assumed a resolution couldn’t be that far off. No one knew that coal prices were about to skyrocket, dampening the intended economic impact of the strike, or that the conflict would ultimately drag on for nearly two years. At that point, Wright was just excited to see UMWA president Cecil Roberts speak and to brainstorm ways she could get involved. She had no idea just how involved she would become, and how much of the strike’s survival would come to rest on her shoulders.