A few weeks ago I called out labor leaders for failing to get out of their cushy offices and actually fight for our coal miners and their families. Today I am calling out our state and local political leaders.
If you hold a political office in a coalfield state, this letter is directed at you.
Listen up… your people are hurting!
Your communities are dying and we need more than smile and empty promises at a handful of public meetings every two years when you need our votes. We need you to LEAD this fight! We need you to be fighting for us 24-7-365!
Fighting for coal mining jobs is not a part-time job. It is most assuredly isn’t a damn political “position.” We can’t wait for the “next election” or even the “next legislative session.” We need you NOW!
Today, there are 17,000 coal miners who are out of work in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia!
Think about that a minute…. let it sink in.
You and I both know the damage doesn’t stop there. For each of those 17,000 coal mining jobs there are another five jobs that depend on coal. So that means another 85,000 have been lost that depend on coal. And that $1.2 BILLION were lost in wages for miners and another $3.4 BILLION for support jobs! That’s $4.6 BILLION in lost wages!
We should be having meetings and rallies every single day! You should be leading thousands to Washington – protesting in front of the White House and the EPA every single day and making them see the damage their asinine policies are doing to our people!
But you know what? It seems like you have disappeared!
Oh, you show up when there is something in it for you – when you can get a quick mention on television, but when it comes down to the hard work of fighting for coal jobs, you are nowhere around.
You talk a good game, but looking back on it, I honestly can’t remember a single idea any of you actually came up with – at least that is true of most of your. You were content to hop a bus and be seen or attend some public meetings at election time to make a few empty promises and maybe pick up a vote or two, but it has become clear that many, if not most, of you either don’t really care about our coal miners and their families or you don’t know what to do! Neither is acceptable.
We don’t expect miracles, but we DO expect YOU to fight for us!
Some of us fight this fight every single day! Some of us spend money out of our own pockets! We spend hours away from our families! And when we ARE home we are working to build support online. We’re happy to do it. But you know what? This is YOUR job!
YOU, our local and state political leaders – everyone from Senator Manchin to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin all the way down to the County Courthouse gang in Logan, in Mingo, Boone, and our other coalfield counties, as well as the leaders of Pike, Harlan, Buchanan, Wise and all the other coalfield counties and every member of the state legislatures in our coalfield states – need to get up off your butts and really lead!
Now there ARE some of your who ARE leading and you deserve a mention. Sen. Shelley Capito has been out in front of this issue every day, creating the Congressional Coal Caucus and pushing legislation that will help preserve coal miners pensions. Rep. McKinley has been right there fighting for us and our jobs.
This crisis is no longer “in the future” – it’s now! The horse has left the barn. Your communities are dying and your people are desperate for your leadership! In fact, many of them have lost hope and that is perhaps the biggest tragedy of all. Because when that happens is when the problems with drugs, with alcoholism and crime all begin to tear apart the very fabric of our society. And make no mistake about it, that is already happening.
Just today, CSX announced the layoff of 600 employees being cut from its Huntington division. That’s right – another 600 jobs lost in one day! And sadly this seems to be a daily occurrence now!
Let’s put politics as usual behind us. If you can’t or won’t, well, you are part of the problem and we WILL remember it.
So lead or get out of the way! We have no time to waste. Stand up for us and we will remember it! It’s up to you!
Fighting this war is NOT a political game. It is a life and death fight for our very future! It’s time for our politicians to act like it and LEAD!
Roger Horton is president of United Citizens for Coal.