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Cecil Roberts letter to UMWA surface mining members

April 8, 2008

United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts sent the following letter today to UMWA members who work at West Virginia coal operations involved in surface mining, sometimes called "mountaintop removal" mining operations:
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Despite recent speculation by some in the media to the contrary, the position of the United Mine Workers of America with respect to our members who work at surface coal mining operations, including those called “mountaintop removal” operations, has remained consistent over the last decade. That position has not changed today.

The UMWA is proud to represent miners of all types, including those who work at surface mining operations. We have and will continue to do our utmost to protect, defend and improve the jobs of those who work at all coal operations, including surface operations. Let there be no mistake, no misunderstanding of that.

That is why we have, time and again, taken legal action to preserve those jobs every time it has become necessary. That is why we have joined with industry and political leaders in West Virginia in rallies–such as the one held in Logan, W. Va., last May–to very clearly state our position on the preservation of those jobs and maintaining the economic benefits those jobs bring to the communities where our members live and work.

We have fought for those jobs and we will continue to fight for them, because–just as with every member of the UMWA–our members who work at surface operations deserve no less than our very strongest efforts.  That’s what they have received over the years, and that’s what they will continue to receive.

Further, we will continue to help workers at nonunion mines–including surface operations–form unions, for we believe that those workers have a right to the pay, health care, pension and safety benefits they can only achieve through a UMWA contract.

It’s important for everyone to understand that the UMWA and our members do not make the decisions about where or how coal is mined. That is up to the coal operators, subject to the laws and regulations of the federal and state governments.

But wherever coal is mined, whether it be on the surface or underground, we believe that all miners should have the benefits of union representation, and we restate once again our pledge that those who are UMWA members will always have the full support and backing of the union, no matter what may come or who it may upset.

We can take no other path.

Cecil E. Roberts
International President

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