“We are a coal mining family but also environmentalists and care about our communities’ mountains, creeks, and streams. Things can be done differently. Growing up I used to catch crawdads in the creek and you didn’t go below the mine because everything was dead from the mine down. The silt from strip mining has annihilated the streams.
It’s a tradeoff of destroying the mountain or have jobs. The good coal has already been mined and hauled off. Mountaintop removal is scraping the last bit. They may blow 4-500 feet off the top of a mountain. You don’t see these mountains driving through the state and the trees and underbrush grow back fast. We are the exception being environmentalist People are scared of losing their jobs. Trump promised to bring coal back, but it’s not here like it used to be.
It is not as profitable to mine coal. Gas is cheaper. They are drilling like crazy for gas in the northern part of our state and sending it out to other places. Everything we do and have in Western Virginia is taken somewhere else. If we owned the land and minerals, we would all be rich around here, instead, we are poor.
You used to be able to go any place and get a job. They were union jobs with good wages and healthcare. Some miners are making $24 an hour. But that doesn’t last long. When it mines out, they don’t have a pension. Right now I am fighting for my pension. Some of the big pension systems are going broke because the coal companies filed for bankruptcy and aren’t paying for the pensions. Patriot, Peabody, Alfa, and Arch have all declared bankruptcy. They walk out with our money and then reorganize. Then it falls back on the taxpayers. When you vote for people who pass bankruptcy laws, there are consequences. The old retirees are getting kicked out on the street. Companies can still make money and take care of their people. Capitalism is greed and eats stuff alive. We had the extreme form with our coal companies. The profits and benefits are going to the top and the middle class is getting eaten alive.
In the South, there was no union and it was the escape route that shut the midwest down. It took two or three jobs in the South to make a living. I think it created the different philosophies between the two parties. One makes you believe you don’t need anyone else and you can accomplish it all by yourself. I am a Union person and I believe we can accomplish more by working together. My dad would roll over in his grave if he saw the shape of this state and county.
I liked being a coal miner. I started making a $1.60 an hour at a furniture company and my dad got me a job at the coal company for $3.40 an hour and worked I there all my life. It is like working in a small tunnel, some only 26″ high. You cut the coal into blocks and pull out pillars of coal. You are dropped down in elevators. The last job, the beltline ran 13 miles to get the coal out of the mountain. I want to know where my escape ways are and how to get out of a mountain because fires and accidents happen. The soot on your face and black lung from coal dust are real. We all have black lung, but to get the black lung benefits, you have one foot in the grave. It is a progressive disease and once you have it, it will kill you, My dad died from it when he was 71.
There is blood and sweat the goes through the power line. It would help the country if we shut down the coal mines. We should also be a country to help the ones who lose their jobs. We let those who have money control those who don’t.”