As we celebrate National Miner’s Day by recognizing the hard work and sacrifice miners make to support their families. While it is important to lift up those who provide the energy and materials necessary for so many to enjoy their comforts and conveniences, we must be careful not to allow specific organizations to use the holiday as good PR for their own interests. I am speaking of course, about mining companies, mining associations, and the pro-mining politicians who attempt to “honor” the workforce that generates their wealth. Though these businessmen want us to focus on the bravery and courage it takes to be a miner in this country, they also want us to forget.
They want us to forget that if it were not for land agents and coal companies swindling our forefathers, our communities would be in possession of the trillions of dollars of wealth that has been extracted and shipped out of our mountains over the past century.
They want us to forget that they once paid our forefathers in company scrip and that when our families banded together to fight for better safety, healthcare benefits, and a retirement pension to enjoy what little life they had left afterward the companies hired mercenaries to harass and kill union families.
They want us to forget that still today, they own the majority of private land and mineral rights in our counties. They want us to forget that despite owning all that wealth, they really don’t have to pay much in property taxes, revenues that would go towards our school systems and providing our children the education they would need to escape a life working in the mines or living in poverty where substance abuse prevails.
They want us to forget that there is still no decent mine safety legislation eight years after the Upper Big Branch disaster. Miners still do not possess the right to stop work in unsafe conditions without fear of losing their job or being passed over for another job following layoffs.
They want us to forget that when they file bankruptcy and they rename their companies, they cut their losses by cutting the healthcare benefits of retired miners, all while seeking bonuses for company officials.
But we aren’t fooled. We know the truth about what really happens. We know how they really feel about us. All it takes is getting hurt in their mines and filing for disability, getting a chest x-ray and filing for black lung, asking a politician for better safety legislation, or taking matters into your own hands to slow or stop production until things are made safe. That’s when you really see where you stand.