There are many reasons we should have a National Miner’s Day in this country. First and foremost would be to highlight the sacrifices miners, their families, and mining communities have made in this nation’s journey toward world economic superiority. But without taking time to understand — and act upon—the problems miners continue to face, National Miner’s Day is just another industry PR campaign.
Make no mistake about it, miners are still abused in this country, perhaps none more so than coal miners. Research conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that during the mid-2000s, “Employees in coal mining [were] more likely to be killed or to incur a non-fatal injury or illness, and their injuries are more likely to be severe than workers in private industry as a whole.” (Emphasis my own). Since 2000, coal mining has taken the lives of 499 miners, 10 in this past year alone which adds to the total of 104,888 coal miners who have died in this country since 1900. This still does not account for the more than 75,000 miners who have died from black lung which government agencies only began tracking in the 1960s. And of those who made it out alive, there are hundreds of thousands more miners who suffered permanently disabling injuries from their mining careers.
It is difficult to fathom the overall negative impacts that mining has had on our communities. How many widows? How many kids who lost their fathers and mothers?
I do not mean to be quite so depressing on National Miner’s Day, but these are the facts and they underline over a century’s worth of pain and suffering that we continue to endure today. Miners are still fighting to receive black lung benefits, retirement pensions, and retirement healthcare. Safety legislation is still reactionary and miners still do not have the legal right to stop or slow production to address safety issues. Mining communities are still struggling to overcome abject poverty created by corporate absentee land and mineral rights ownership. Each year thousands of children are graduating high school into hopeless situations that continues to fuel our present day opioid epidemic. Health disparities still plague our region where people must contend with food deserts, lack of access to good healthcare, and the environmental health legacy left in the wake of a century’s worth of coal mining.
When I think of National Miner’s Day, these are the things I think about. Somehow I doubt these are the things that company owners and their political buddies are thinking about when they talk about National Miner’s Day. Instead, I think they want us to forget everything that has happened, ignore what is continuing to happen, believe that they care about us, believe that we are supposed to make this patriotic sacrifice, and of course, they just want us to keep working hard and sacrificing our well being so they can continue reaping the benefits for themselves and their investors.
Personally, I think every miner in this nation should take the day off and that everyone else in this nation should take the time to help them fight for something better.