EPA Proposes New Carbon Pollution Standards for Coal-fired Power Plants. What it means for UMWA coal miners.

On May 11, 2023, the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new carbon pollution standards for coal and natural gas-fired power plants that they say will protect public health, reduce harmful pollutants and deliver up to $85 billion in climate and public health benefits over the next two decades.  In reality, a newer version of the Clean Power Plan (CPP).  This will be a fight the UMWA will take on all over again.   

The proposed rule will cause even more job losses in our nation’s coal-producing areas without any real prospect of any new substantial job creations.  There is a real concern about the proposed rule landing at a time when the promises of job creation and job retraining in the coalfields remain little more than words on paper.  The so-called just transition that simply does not exist.   

The new proposal comes nearly a decade after a finalized version of the rule (CPP), which would have taken a system-wide approach to pollution reduction by forcing plants to use more renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

 

UMWA has significant concerns with the proposed rule

“The next round of coal-fired power plant closures is coming but the coal-producing areas of the country are still reeling from the last round and are not prepared for this one,” said President Roberts.  

“We have long said that if there are no new jobs for displaced coal miners to step into when their coal and coal-related jobs are gone, then our government will have failed, once again, an entire region of our nation.  While there has been a promise of new jobs, it seems that is all it is, a promise.” Roberts said.  

The UMWA has been asking for the development of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technology to be commercially applied to coal-fired power plants for well over a decade, to no avail.  The CCS technology would not only preserve coal mining jobs but it is the only way to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the long term.   

“While we appreciate the attention the proposed rule gives to CCS technology, we would point out that nearly two years after the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) was passed that allocated billions for the construction of commercial-grade coal-fired power plants to demonstrate that CCS can work, not one shovel of dirt has been moved to actually begin construction,” said President Roberts.   

“The proposed rule for CCS application to coal-fired power are ambitious, to say the least, especially when factoring in the lag in the development of technology on a commercial scale, we have a hard time seeing how this will match up in real-time,” said Roberts.  

Under the proposal, new and existing gas plants running regularly would have to capture 90 percent of their emissions by 2035.  Existing coal-fired plants slated to run into 2040 would have to capture 90 percent by 2030.  Gas plants expected to operate for decades could comply with the rule by co-firing with low-emitting hydrogen, gradually ramping up to a 96 percent hydrogen blend by 2038. 

“The UMWA intends to submit our comments regarding the proposal in the next few weeks.  We intend to fight the newly proposed EPA power plant rule just like we fought the CPP.  We do not intend to leave any UMWA worker behind and the government shouldn’t be in the business of allowing thousands of workers and their families to lose their jobs either,” Roberts said.

 

UMWA members and International staff were back on Capitol Hill in July to urge Senate members to confirm Moshe Marvcit to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

 

Legal woes hang in the balance?

Having rolled out its strongest proposal to date to slash global-warming emissions from power plants, the EPA must first face off with the courts.  According to legal experts, this will be no easy feat.   

The earlier version of the proposed rule, the CPP, which would have taken a system-wide approach to pollution reduction by forcing plants to use more renewable energy, is a regulation that never took effect because of years of legal challenges.  It was ruled out of bounds just last year in the case of West Virginia v. EPA 

The new power plant proposal will likely face the same or similar legal challenges as 2015’s CPP.  The EPA will first review public comments on the proposal and will ultimately issue a final version of the rule.  The proposal is scheduled to be finalized by June, 2024 but could take longer if the White House or Congress changes hands next year.  

In the case of West Virginia v. EPA, Chief Justice John Roberts outlined the limits of the EPA’s powers to force coal retirements, a stance that will likely be under scrutiny with the new proposed rule.  

In Chief Justice’s written brief, he stated, “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible solution to the crisis of the day.  But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.  A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”  

Legal experts say the Supreme Court’s guidance in the West Virginia case and the presence of new climate legislation from Congress could help the agency survive yet another legal fight over its approach to slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.   

Depending on the length of time it takes for the EPA to complete its final rule, the regulations could be at risk, depending on the outcome of the 2024 election

 

Organizing for the Future

 

Since the beginning of our Union in 1890, the UMWA was built on the fundamental philosophy that every person should have the opportunity to belong to a union, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, or gender.  Those basics still hold today as we move forward to a prosperous future.

At the UMWA’s 56th Consecutive Constitutional Convention in June 2022, we laid out a plan to Protect, Grow and Celebrate! We have and continue to protect our members’ jobs and our retirees’ pensions and health care, which is to be celebrated. Now our focus must be growing our union. That means we must organize, and we must do it now.

“Workers are organizing all across the United States and Canada,” said President Roberts.  “Starbucks, Amazon, college students and more are standing up and saying, “We want to join a union.”  The United Mine Workers needs to have a part in that.  To survive in the long term, we must grow our membership.”

“Collective bargaining is how working people gain a voice in the workplace,” said Secretary-Treasurer Sanson.  “In case all of the multibillion-dollar corporations have yet to take notice, workers are demanding union representation, but that does not mean organizing has become any easier.”

“Aggressive campaigns and anti-union lobbying have stopped workers’ rights to organize in many places,” Sanson said.  “But workers continue to fight back. The UMWA is joining that fight.

 

Organizing training was held at the District 17 office in Charleston, WV on April 18, 2023. Photo credit Kris Mallory.

 

“We will use our resources to educate workers who want a voice in the workplace and who want to organize with the UMWA,” Roberts said. “Every worker has the right to join a union, whether you are a miner, a manufacturing worker, a public employee, a warehouse worker, or a barista.”

”We already have an extremely diversified membership that includes miners, health care workers, corrections officers, EMT, and more.  We need to capitalize on our diversity to continue the growth of our union,” Roberts said.

On April 18, 2023, an organizing training class was held at the District 17 office in Charleston, West Virginia.  The training was based on the AFL-CIO’s instrumental organizing software, Action Builder.  This follows on the heels of several training sessions that were held in 2022 in Alabama. Even during the 23-month strike against Warrior Met Coal, the union knew it had to be just as focused on organizing new members.

Changes in the energy marketplace, overly-aggressive government regulations, and decisions by electric utility companies about future power generation have radically altered the coal industry and the jobs that are available in it. “Rank and file coal miners have become scarcer than ever in the United States.  Fewer hourly coal miners are working in the country today than at any time since the federal government began keeping statistics more than a century ago,” said President Roberts.

“For every single direct coal job that has been lost, four other jobs have disappeared, meaning a quarter of a million jobs have already been lost throughout the coalfields. We are going to continue working to organize coal miners, but we must also look outside of the coal industry to grow our membership for a sustainable future,” Roberts said. “That is the charge the delegates to the convention last year gave us, and that is what we are going to do.”

 

Members Speak on the Importance of Organizing

Local Union 1638 member Zach Stevey has been working in the state of West Virginia for nearly a year helping to organize state employees into UMWA Local Union 154.  The local consists of workers from the Department of Natural Resources, the Office of Mine Health, Safety and Training, the Department of Highways, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Division of Forestry, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Local Union 154 held a meeting on April 27, 2023, to discuss how to grow the membership in their local.  “The time is now to focus on workers who need our help,” said Stevey, who served as the Organizing Committee Chairman at the 2022 Convention.  “They don’t just build a coal mine every day anymore, so it’s time to branch out and see who fits best within our union.”

“We want to help workers who want our help and who want to join a union, and the West Virginia employees are just that.  They are eager to build up the membership in their new local, and we will be working with them in the upcoming months to achieve that goal,” Stevey said.

 

Local Union 1638 member Zach Stevey was the Chairman of the Organizing Committee at the UMWA’s 56 constitutional convention in Las Vegas, Nevada in June, 2022. Photo Credits: Earl Dotter.

Local Union 1638 member Ryan Sparks, has also spent the better part of a year organizing of West Virginia state employees.  From the northern panhandle, the eastern panhandle to the southern part of the state, rank-and-file organizers have been speaking to state employees and getting new members to sign their authorization cards.

“Expansion is crucial for all unions right now,” said Sparks. “This is a time where so many workers want and need a union so we’ve been trying to stay ahead of the game.”

“With our industry under attack like it has been for over a decade now, we need to think about the future of our union and if expansion outside of the coal industry is what it has to be, then we are going to make that happen,” Sparks said.

 

Local Union 1638 member Ryan Sparks. Photo Credits: Zack Stevey.

 

Local Union 154 Financial Secretary Steve Bowles is eager to see the newly developed local expand.  “It has been going really well so far.  I started out as a member of UMWA Local 1582 and was the financial secretary for that local as well,” said Bowles.

“Unlike some of our other potential members who are state employees, I have experience as a UMWA member,” Bowles said.  “I feel as though I can bring knowledge and express a positive message to anyone who wants to join our local.  We had our first local union meeting last month and we had good participation.  I think we are going to be a good, strong local.”

In 2022, more than 16 million workers in the United States were represented by a union; an increase of 200,000 from 2021.  At the same time, the share of workers represented by a union declined from 11.6 percent to 11.3 percent.  How is it possible that unionization levels increased but unionization rates decreased in 2022? More jobs were unionized but nonunion jobs were added at a faster rate.

“I’ve said this many times before but maybe it needs to be said again to anyone who is willing to listen,” said President Roberts.  “Unions take bad jobs and make them into good jobs.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

“The PRO Act is our next frontier” – Richard L. Trumka

 

Passing the PRO Act Now!

The right to form a union is one of the most fundamental rights afforded to all workers in the U.S and Canada.  But for decades, unions have been under attack through union-busting tactics and outright illegal acts by large corporations. All workers have paid the price. The Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would make illegal many of the preposterous acts by employers against their employees who want to join a union, and make the penalties for employers who cross the line much tougher.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 05: Richard Trumka, President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), speaks during a press conference advocating for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in the House of Representatives later this week on Capitol Hill on February 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. The PRO Act would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and is backed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) unions. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

 

“Congress should listen to what American working families are saying to them.  It is very clear that the number of workers who want to join a union is at the highest level it has been in decades,” said President Roberts.

“Passing the PRO Act would hold employers accountable for violating workers’ rights, empower workers to exercise their right to organize, as well as secure fair union elections,” Roberts said.  “It would also eliminate state right-to-work laws.

“Right-to-work laws are the most misnamed laws on the books,” Roberts said. “They have been promoted by a network of billionaires and special interest groups to give more power to corporations at the expense of ordinary workers. In every state where they have recently been put into place, wages have gone down, health care coverage and other benefits have been eroded.”

The PRO Act recognizes that employees need the freedom to picket or withhold their labor in order to make their voices heard at the workplace.  It also protects employees’ right to strike by preventing employers from hiring permanent replacement workers. In addition, it allows unrepresented employees to engage in collective action or class action lawsuits to enforce basic workplace rights, rather than being forced to arbitrate such claims alone.

“I have said it before, and I will say it again, because that is how important this legislation is.  There has not been any meaningful Labor Law reform passed by Congress since 1935. That was 88 years ago and we are still trying to bring a greater level of fairness into the workplace.  That is just wrong, Roberts said.

“History has proven that when workers come together in solidarity to collectively bargain, they secure higher wages, better benefits and safer working conditions, not just for union workers but for all workers.”

“Brothers and sisters, it is time for organized labor and workers across this country to stand up and fight back and elect people to office that believe in the right to join a union. It is time for Congress to act now and pass the PRO Act.” – Cecil Roberts

 

Organizing is the Key to our Future

The words of John L. Lewis ring true, more now than ever: “Let the workers organize.  Let the toilers assemble.  Let their crystallized voice proclaim their injustices and demand their privileges.  Let all thoughtful citizens sustain them, for the future of Labor is the future of America.”

At a time when union elections have been the highest in more than 20 years, there is no better time than to meet the demands of American workers.  In the first half of 2022 alone, unions won 641 representation elections.

The UMWA has several organizing efforts underway, including public employees in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, hospital nurses in Southwest Virginia, manufacturing workers in several states, miners in New Mexico and working to reinstate our membership in the Navajo Nation after newly-elected President Buu Nygren agreed to recognize the union and proceed with negotiations.

“Brothers and sisters, let’s organize the organized.  That has been our motto since John L. Lewis spoke those famous words,” said President Roberts.  “Let’s build each other up and expand our membership for the prosperity of our future.  The time is now.”

 

Workers have Spoken!  We Want a Union!

“The labor movement is organized upon a principle that themstrong shall help the weak.  The strength of a strong man is a prideful thing, but the unfortunate thing in life is that strong men do not remain strong.  And it is just as true of unions and labor organizations as is true of men and individuals.  And whereas today the craft unions of this country may be able to stand upon their own feet and like might oaks stand before the gale, defy the lightning, yet the day may come when those organizations will not be able to withstand the lightning and the gale.  Now, prepare yourselves by making a contribution to your less fortunate brethren….Organize the unorganized”    —- John L. Lewis

Brother Marlin Bennett: 50 Years of Dedication to UMWA Local Union 1656

 

In the heart of the Canadian mining town of Hinton, one man stands out as a symbol of unwavering commitment to his trade and community. Brother Marlin Bennett, an active miner at the Hinton Mine and the embodiment of solidarity, recently celebrated an incredible milestone – receiving his 50-year membership pin from UMWA Local Union 1656.

Brother Bennett has spent the better part of his life mining coal, but his story is not only about his impressive half-century of mining; it’s about the commitment to safety and community that has been the cornerstone of his career.

For the past 25 years, Brother Bennett has been the safety chairman for UMWA Local Union 1656. It’s a role he takes with the utmost seriousness, knowing that the lives of his fellow miners depend on it.

Brother Bennett’s deep-seated dedication to safety is rooted in his upbringing. His father worked with the Department of National Defense and instilled in him, from a young age, the importance of looking out for one another and following stringent safety protocols. 

This invaluable lesson has guided Marlin throughout his life, making him a steadfast advocate for safety in the perilous world of mining.

When asked about his motivation to work in the mine, Bennett said, “I wanted to be closer to home and provide for my family. But more importantly, I never once questioned joining a union. It’s a brotherhood that has my back, and I have theirs. We’re all in this together.”

UMWA Local Union 1656, to Brother Bennett, is not just an organization; it’s a way of life. “You know, these younger miners, they are really missing out by not being a part of the United Mine Workers. It is truly the best union in the world,” he said, with a sense of pride that only a half-century of experience can bring.

Brother Bennett’s 50-year membership pin is not just a symbol of time served; it’s a badge of honor, marking a lifetime dedicated to the well-being of his fellow miners and the resilience of UMWA Local Union 1656.

Navajo Nation Elects New President


In October, 2022, voters in the Navajo Nation elected Dr. Buu Nygren as President of the Navajo Nation.  The youngest-ever Navajo Nation president at 36 years old, President Nygren campaigned on accountability, strengthening the Navajo economy and providing basic services to Navajo residents. He was sworn into office January 10, 2023, in Fort Defiance, Arizona.

“If you grew up the way I grew up, with no running water, no electricity, I lost my mom to alcoholism, I have relatives that we lost to alcoholism this year,” said President Nygren. “There’s this loss of hope and as president, I want to do what I can to make sure that our people have hope, that we’re not always going to be like this.”

The UMWA endorsed Nygren for President and International Representative Justin Tsosie served on his transition committee. The Union is in discussions with the new administration regarding once again recognizing the UMWA as the collective bargaining representative for some 1,500 Navajo Nation employees.

Actively Retired Spotlight: Jay Kolenc

Local Union 1304 member Jay Kolenc has been a member of the United Mine Workers since July 21, 1948.  During his career he held over 21 certified jobs, both on surface and deep mines.  From 1969 to 1982 he was an organizer for the International union.  After 46 years, Brother Kolenc retired on July 21, 1994.

Through his tenure with the UMWA, Brother Kolenc has traveled from coast to coast to attend various functions. He was in southwest Virginia supporting members on strike against the Pittston Coal Company.  He’s been to conventions in Las Vegas and Denver.  He’s traveled to New York City and Alabama to support our members in Alabama who have been on strike at Warrior Met Coal for more than 21 months. You name it, and he’s done it.

“He got on a bus to go to Alabama, and this bus ride was no easy task,” said International District 31 Vice President Rick Altman.  “It was a 14-hour ride each way, and there was no hesitation on his part.  He wanted to be there to show his support for his union brothers and sisters, and that’s exactly what he did.  Upon his arrival back in St. Clairsville, Ohio, after the long bus ride, Jay said, ‘if needed, I will go again’. That’s the type of person Jay is.”

Brother Kolenc is approaching 92 years old, but nothing has slowed down his union involvement.  “Anytime Jay has been called upon, he has unequivocally been there to answer,” said President Roberts. “Just last year he traveled to New York, not once, but twice, to picket and rally outside of BlackRock headquarters.  That’s a lot for someone who has been a member for over 74 years, and there’s not much more you can ask for.  The UMWA is blessed to have his longstanding dedication and commitment.”

“The way the UMWA represents their pensioners and widows means everything to me.  A lot of other unions, once you retire, they kind of forget about you, but not our great union.  It means everything to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  I’m proud to be a member of the greatest union on earth.”  -Jay Kolenc, Local Union 1304-

Jay is still very much active, even when not traveling all over the country supporting his fellow brothers and sisters.  He currently serves as the vice president of his local and has held that position for many years.  A Korean War veteran, he also serves on his local’s Veterans and COMPAC Committees. When not fulfilling UMWA commitments, he spends his time on the Board of Commissioners at Friendship Park, Smithfield, Ohio and is a member of the Board of Public Affairs in Hopedale, Ohio.

“Brother Kolenc is very active and cares about his union brothers and sisters,” said Secretary-Treasurer Sanson.  “He is a great union man who is nothing short of an inspiration.  He served his country during the Korean War, and he has certainly served our union well over the years.  Someone like Jay is a fountain of knowledge, and we are grateful to call him our friend and brother.”

Racine Hydro Plant – Local Union 1886

On the Ohio River in southeast Ohio lies the Racine Hydro Plant, manned and operated by members of UMWA Local Union 1886. The Racine Hydro Plant is a 48-megawatt run-of-river hydroelectric facility that was completed and opened in 1983. The plant has two hydroelectric turbines that produce an average generation of 200,500 megawatts per hour of clean electricity per year. That is enough energy to power 18,000 houses.

In January 2022, the Racine Hydro Plant was sold from its previous owner, American Electric Power, to Eagle Creek Renewable Energy. Along with the sale and transfer came a new contract that was negotiated between the UMWA, Local Union 1886 members, and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy management on January 2, 2022.

During the years of the facility being represented by the UMWA, the union aided workers in moving up their classifications from Hydro B to Hydro A, which guaranteed them the correct pay scale for their skill level.

Local Union 1886 member Adam Lee is an ICE Technician and handles the majority of the electrical work at the plant. “It’s extremely important to be a part of a union that represents its workers,” said Adam. “If you don’t, you’re liable to be steamrolled by the company whenever they see fit.”

Kevin Marcinko has been a member of Local Union 1886 for seven years and has performed duties from mechanic to operations. “I’ve been here long enough to see the transition between companies and how important it is to be represented by your union.”

“Having a voice at your workplace is priceless,” said Local Union 1886 member and Utility Mechanic George Parker. “You never know what kind of situation you may find yourself in when you do this kind of work. Being heard means not only longevity but safety on the job.”

“In a time when energy is the main topic of conversation, we are proud to represent workers that have been able to transition into jobs where they are able to continue earning a living and be represented by a union. Hats off to these members for setting the example for a true transition.” President Roberts

“We are very proud to represent these Local Union 1886 members during negotiations for their new contract,” said International District 17 Vice President Brian Lacy. “Being a part of the UMWA has ensured them a seat at the table to bargain for the wages and benefits they have today.”

Indiana County Recycling Center – Local Union 1412

In 1988, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed Act 101, the Municipal Waste, Planning, Recycling, and Waste Reduction Act, requiring all counties to conduct comprehensive waste planning to evaluate waste generation rates, available disposal capacity, recycling opportunities, and more.

The Solid Waste Authority operates the Indiana County Recycling Center in Homer City, Pennsylvania, where all recyclable materials handled by the county are processed and marketed. UMWA Local Union 1412 has represented workers employed at the recycling center since 1997.

The recycling center provides a 24-hour residential drop-off location for many materials and also offers special recycling collection programs that include scrap tires, lead acid batteries, large metal appliances, and electronic items, just to name a few.

Mike Bowersox, Local Union 1412 member, has been working at the center for 17 years and serves on the Grievance and Safety Committees. “Having been a member since shortly after I started here at the recycling center, I can say I am very proud of all of us who are employed here at the facility,” said Bowersox. “There’s only seven of us, and we handle recycling needs for about 12,000 households.

“We worked through the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic because we were deemed essential employees”, said Bowersox. “We all work well together to serve the members of our community. During the pandemic, with all the health and safety risks that were happening during that time, we knew the union always had our backs.”

In addition to the day-to-day operations at the Indiana facility, the Solid Waste Authority processes and markets materials collected through Jefferson County’s drop-off recycling program. Jefferson County delivers approximately 250 additional tons of materials per year to the recycling center for processing and marketing. In addition, smaller quantities of materials are brought to the recycling center from Armstrong and Westmoreland Counties.

“The members of Local Union 1412 are second to none,” said District 2 Vice President Chuck Knisell. “If you can imagine seven individuals accomplishing what they do on a daily basis, it’s quite something. Our members perform a vital service that helps the community, and indeed the surrounding, rural communities as well”, said Knisell.

“They do an outstanding job, and we are proud of the work they do. Most importantly, I’m glad we can call them members of the United Mine Workers of America.”

Jay Doyle, member of Local Union 1412, began working at the recycling center in May 2009. “I have made some great friendships since I’ve been here”, said Doyle. “It’s a great feeling knowing that you are doing what I would say is community service work,” said Doyle. “I think if you asked anyone in the community, they would say we do a great job with the recycling center and are happy to have the type of facility we offer.”

Indiana County recently began to revise and update the county’s Municipal Waste Management Plan. The planning effort will develop new projections of the types and quantities of waste likely to be generated in the county over the next decade. It will evaluate recycling programs and opportunities, and it will solicit for landfill disposal capacity sufficient to manage county wastes during the ten-year planning period.

“The services that our members of Local Union 1412 provide to the community on a day-to-day basis are extremely important,” said President Roberts. “Their efforts are essential and vital to everyone. If you think about the thousands of tons of materials that are processed through the facility each year, it is an amazing accomplishment.

“Our members at the recycling center are doing a great job at providing an important service to the community, and we should all be very appreciative of their hard work and dedication.”

The 24-hour residential dropoff location stays extremely busy, especially on the weekends. Sometimes residents are lined up to the main highway that sits in front of the facility to drop off their items to be recycled. The facility handles cardboard, plastic bottles, magazines, glass bottles, newspapers, aluminum cans, and much more.

The recycling center offers tours of the facility, free of charge, to residents, schools, civic organizations, and other interested parties. “The members of Local Union 1412 work diligently and efficiently for the communities in which they provide services,” said Region 1 Director Mike Payton. “They make a difference in people’s lives every day and make their community a safer place to live because of the services they offer.”

 

Remembering a True American Hero

Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, a Marine Corps veteran and the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, passed away on June 29th at the age of 98.

“Woody was a true hero for many Americans and not just because he was a Medal of Honor winner,” said President Roberts. “Woody was a genuine person who did not act like he was any different or any better than anyone else. He was an inspiration to all who encountered him, always willing to listen and offer advice if asked but was never judgmental. He accepted people for who they were.”

A description, given on the military’s Medal of Honor website, detailed Williams’ actions in battle to clear the way for American tanks and infantry. The website said he was “quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands.

Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machinegun fire from the unyielding positions.” Facing small-arms fire, Williams fought for four hours, repeatedly returning to prepare demolition charges and obtain flamethrowers.

The website says, “His underlying determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective.”

 

President Roberts, a veteran himself, serving in the Vietnam War, considered Woody a friend and a true American hero.

“Our world needs more people like Woody Williams,” said Roberts. “He did not shirk his duty when called upon, and when he came home from the battlefield a hero, he did not flaunt it,” Roberts continued.

“Every member and veteran of the United Mine Workers of America will miss him terribly, and our hearts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Veterans – Local Union 1307

Local Union 1307, based in Diamondville, Wyoming, is the oldest actively coal-producing local in our union and is still producing coal today. The local has been producing coal for over 110 years.

Members of Local Union 1307 meet at the Search and Rescue building on the third Friday of each month to hold their local union meetings.

As a part of District 22 in Price, Utah, International District 22 President Mike Dalpiaz says part of what makes the local so unique is the patriotism of the membership.

Tom Tennyson, a 49-year member of Local 1307, is not only a member of the United Mine Workers of America, but he is also a United States Army veteran, having served 6 years during the Vietnam War. Tom is also an Honor Guard Member of American Legion Post 55 in Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Ed Ourada has been a UMWA member of the local for 48 1/2 years and served 21 years in the United States Air Force. He served our country in the Vietnam War, Cold War, and the Gulf War in Iraq. As if serving his country through three wars wasn’t enough, he is also an Honor Guard Member of American Legion Post 55 in Kemmerer.

Brother John Feloni, a 49-year member of the local served six years in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. Along with Brother Tennyson and Ourada, he is a member of American Legion Post 55.

“With over 146 years of combined UMWA membership and 33 years of service to our great nation, these are some of the strongest union guys in their local,” Dalpiaz said.

“These gentlemen have been there to support all of their union brothers and sisters at every turn. The loyalty they have shown to our country, to the membership of Local Union 1307, and indeed to everyone who belongs to the United Mine Workers of America, is remarkable.”

A Letter in Honor of Veterans Day

Written by Local Union 1124 Member David Maragni

Edited for use in the UMW Journal

 

In the late 1960s at Central Junior High School in West Frankfort, my homeroom teacher was Mrs. Juanita Kinney.

One morning we were told that Mrs. Kinney would not be there for a while; her son had been killed in Vietnam. Like all of us who grew up during that time, I had learned to observe the pain, loss, and distance that others felt who had loved ones at war.

In 1973, I graduated from Frankfort Community High School. Two weeks later, I reported for induction into the U.S. Army.

After my three years in the Army, I returned to southern Illinois. I contacted Mrs. Kinney (now Mrs. Neal) and told her I was in her class at the time of her son’s death and that when the Vietnam War is mentioned, I always think of him.

She thanked me and told me that Richard had been buried in Marion in a family plot. She said he was a Navy Corpsman attached to the Marines. While on Hill 881, helping others, he was shot in the head. That was April 30, 1967.

Mrs. Neal gave me a small photo of Richard. She said that John 10:28 had given her much peace at the time of his death. “And I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”

“I still hurt and cried,” she said. “But I never worried about him ever again. He is safe now.”

We wrote to each other from time to time. Eventually, one of my letters didn’t get a response. I didn’t think too much about it. A while later I went to the cemetery to place a flag on her son’s grave and found her grave close by. Veterans Day is an opportunity to look back at people like Richard Kinney.

His mom said, “He always wanted to serve in the Navy.” His service cost him his life. The Bible says, “No man lives or dies unto himself.” Some people we have never met influence our lives by losing theirs.