UMWA invites presidential candidates to go underground, meet miners


JULY 9, 2019

[WASHINGTON, DC] Cecil E. Roberts, International President of the United Mine Workers of America, yesterday sent letters to all the candidates for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, inviting them to come to a union coal mine and go underground.

“Coal miners are very concerned about their future, and their families’ futures.” Roberts said in the letter. “They want to know that those who are running for President share that concern and have some understanding of what they do and why they do it. They want to talk to you, and they have a right to be heard.”

Roberts sent the letter at a time when the sector of the coal industry that produces steam coal, used as fuel for electricity generation, is under great stress. Coal-fired power plants are disappearing at accelerating levels, with 289 closed since 2010. Fifty have closed just since January, 2017. This has caused further coal company bankruptcies, including last week at Blackjewel LLC in Wyoming, where 600 miners found themselves unemployed with no notice whatsoever.

“While the steam coal sector reels from shock after shock, the workers inevitably end up taking the worst blows,” Roberts said today. “The Trump administration rolled back several regulations that would have made things even worse, yet the market has not recovered and steam coal production jobs are still being lost. If the market and public policy trends we are seeing today continue, American coal production will soon be limited only to the type of coal used to make steel, which is just 20 percent of all coal mined in this country.”

Most Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed the Green New Deal or offered similar plans that would hasten the closure of coal-fired power plants and the mines that feed them. Those plans fall far short of the kind of specificity needed to give miners a sense of comfort that their families’ lives will not be completely disrupted.

“These candidates are promoting plans that will put hundreds of thousands of people associated with the production, transmission and generation of coal-fired power out of work in a relatively short period of time,” Roberts said. “But if all they offer in return are jobs as solar panel installers, making $14 an hour working as contractors with no health insurance, no paid time off from work and without the protection of a union contract, how can they expect a miner to happily accept that deal?

“That’s why I invited the candidates to come to the mines,” Roberts said. “They owe it to these workers to meet them face to face, tell them their plans and then just listen. They may get an earful, but that is the only way to start the dialogue that needs to happen. This action is not about who we are supporting for President, it’s about finding out who is supporting us.”