UMWA L.U. 1924 President Marie Justice spoke at an April 12 hearing in Washington D.C., asking Congress to keep the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) open. Justice was accompanied by several other L.U. 1924 members, as well as UMWA retirees from West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania who attended in a show of solidarity.
“I come before you, representing mostly Native American coal miners, their families, extended families and the many tribally-owned businesses that provide support services and rely on purchasing power generated by the Kayenta Mine and Navajo Generating Station,” Justice said. “Mine and power plant workers are the backbone of the supply system for Arizona’s energy and water that benefits millions across the state.”
NGS was sanctioned by Congress in 1974 to provide power for the Central Arizona Project. It was commissioned to run until 2044. Located in Page, AZ, the plant is scheduled to cease operations in December, 2019. NGS provides electricity for customers in Arizona and Nevada and currently employs 500 full-time employees. About 90 percent of those employees are Navajo, a Nation that already faces an extremely high unemployment rate. The closing of NGS will ultimately lead to the closure of the Kayenta coal mine, a leading employer of the neighboring Hopi Tribe, as well as hundreds of Navajos.
“In looking at the impacts, we must recognize that many workers support their immediate and extended families with these jobs,” Justice said. “For the Navajo, this represents our children, our grandchildren, grandparents, aunts and uncles. If these jobs go away, the impact to families is far more severe than most imagine. Many families will be torn apart.”