UMWA Joins Fight Against Landfill

March 12, 2024

Source: Lebanon News


UMWA joins fight against landfill

In recent months opponents of a proposed privately owned landfill have appeared at various government meetings wearing camouflage shirts. The shirts are designed similarly to those worn by union coal miners and their supporters during the 1989 strike against Pittston Coal Company.

Last week the symbolic link between the two efforts became literal as the United Mine Workers of America announced their opposition to Russell County Reclamation’s proposed landfill that would be placed at the old Moss 3 site.

“It has come to my attention that Russell County is considering the establishment of a landfill on the grounds of the old Moss 3 Mine,” said UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts. “For anyone acquainted with the profound history of the United Mine Workers, the Moss 3 Preparation Plant was a pivotal site in the Pittston Coal Strike of 1989. A strike, I believe, marked a turning point in the fight for workers’ rights in America.”

On April 5, 1989, union workers began a strike against Pittston to preserve their healthcare and retirement benefits. After five grueling months, contract talks were at a stalemate. That is when union officials made a massive gamble.

On September 17, 99 striking miners and one minister took over the Moss 3 Prep Plant. Outside, an estimated 1,300 miners and their supporters surrounded the plant.

“The Moss 3 Preparation Plant witnessed a four-day takeover by UMWA members during the strike, a bold move that galvanized the labor movement across the country,” Roberts explained.

“Local community members formed a human shield around the plant, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to the cause and embodying the spirit of solidarity. Just a short distance away was ‘Camp Solidarity,’ housing over 1,000 supporters who provided shelter and sustenance for strikers and visitors.”



Roberts added, “The lessons of this historic strike, particularly the Moss 3 takeover, extend far beyond the borders of southwest Virginia. It is etched into the broader labor movement’s narrative, serving as an example of unity and resilience. This strike, marked by its length and the sheer magnitude of civil disobedience, set a modern template for protecting the rights of working families across the world.”

When local attorney Brandi Hurley learned where the proposed landfill would be placed, she saw it as an insult to the site’s legacy.

“When I found out this landfill would be going in the Moss 3 site, I immediately thought of the legacy of Mr. Cecil Roberts and Mr. Jackie Stump,” she said. “They battled immense odds to ensure healthcare and retirement benefits would continue for Southwest Virginia workers at this very site. Their battle led to national legislation guaranteeing coal workers healthcare and retirement benefits.”She added, “Placing a landfill on this site is a snub to not only those surviving workers but Russell County’s proud labor heritage.”

Hurley thought if union officials learned of the proposal, they would want to be a part of the effort to block the landfill. With the help of veterans of the Pittston strike, she made contact with the union.

Her assumption about the union’s reaction was correct.

“To even contemplate placing a landfill on this historic site is not only disrespectful to UMWA’s legacy and the labor movement but an outright travesty against the community that rallied during the strike to safeguard their families’ well-being,” Roberts said. “We adamantly oppose the Moss 3 Landfill, and we call upon every member of our community to stand firm in saying NO to this outrageous proposal. Join us in preserving the sanctity of our history and the legacy of those who fought tirelessly for workers’ rights.

Dr. Amy Branson, one of the leading opponents of the landfill, welcomes the UMWA’s presence. “We are so thankful for the UMWA’s support in fighting the injustices in our community,” she said. “We look forward to working with them to stop this landfill project. It is not a done deal. In solidarity!”

Written by: Shawn Street