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UMWA recognizes National Miners' Day, mourns passing of Nelson Mandela

December 6, 2013
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[TRIANGLE, VA.] United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“As we honor America’s coal miners today, let us remember who they are and what they do. They are remarkable men and women who put their lives, limbs and health on the line every single day at work so that the rest of us can flip on our lights, turn on our computers, keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

“They are proud of the work they do and the role they play not just in energizing our nation but also in being the economic drivers of the communities where they live and work. Their contributions to the social and economic fabric of the coalfields cannot be overstated.

“As we celebrate today’s miners, we must also mourn those who gave their lives in America’s mines. Today marks the 106th anniversary of the worst industrial disaster in our nation’s history, the 1907 explosion of the Monongah mine in Marion County, W. Va., where by some estimates more than 500 miners–including children–were killed.

“We also commemorate the 51st anniversary of the Robena mine disaster in Greene County, Pa., where 37 miners were killed in an explosion in 1962. Just as we do every year, hundreds of us gathered at the Robena monument today to remember them, and to pledge to do all in our power to prevent such tragedies in the future.

“And as the world mourns the passing of one of history’s greatest men, Nelson Mandela, we in the UMWA have an especially heavy heart. In 1985, we were one of the first U.S. labor unions to call for an end to apartheid in South Africa and the release of Mandela. We spearheaded labor’s boycott of Royal Dutch Shell, one of the racist regime’s biggest supporters. In 1994, six of our members traveled to South Africa to serve as observers of the election there that resulted in Mandela winning the presidency.

“Mother Jones taught us to mourn the dead, and fight like hell for the living. So today we mourn, but we also celebrate Mandela’s example of determination and compassion. And we honor the courage and commitment of America’s coal miners, renewing our pledge to do everything possible to keep them safe and secure on the job, so they can continue to provide for their families and build their communities.”


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