Today we celebrate National Miner’s Day by recognizing the hard work and sacrifice miners make to support their families. It is a day for miners to feel tremendous pride for the work they perform. I also have no doubt that mining companies, mining associations, and pro-mining politicians are honoring the loyal workforce that generates their wealth today as well. Yet as much as they 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, we would not have been destined to give up the best years of our health, and the best moments of our children’s lives, working long hours in their mines to support our families.
They want us to forget that they once paid our forefathers in company scrip and that when our families banded together to fight for basic pay and benefits, they hired mercenaries to harass and kill those who stood up for what was right.
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 they still do not pay taxes enough so that our children can receive a decent education in our public schools, or that our communities can work on the issues created in the wake of their industry: poverty, substance abuse, and health issues from mining.
They want us to forget that eight years after the Upper Big Branch disaster, no new mine safety legislation has made a positive impact on the lives of America’s miners. Miners still do not possess the right to stop work in unsafe conditions without fear of losing their job or being passed over after a layoff.
They want us to forget that when they filed bankruptcy and renamed themselves, they cut the healthcare benefits of retired miners and sought bonuses for company officials bonuses.
No, they want miners to feel proud of their sacrifices for their country, for their efforts in providing national energy security, and for supplying the materials our nation’s economy so desperately needs.
But don’t forget one very important thing—they get the wealth from the sacrifices of miners.
All we get is black lung, broken backs, and a hopeless future for our children and our children’s children.