|Kentucky “Friends of Coal Tag” Unveiling – Gov. Steve Beshear Creative Commons|
A while ago I decided to do some investigating on who or what “Friends of Coal” was. What I found surprised me (well… not really).
Friends of Coal wasn’t a group of coal miners and their families working to help one another during hard times. It is an organization created and maintained by coal companies through their “coal associations,” or, in other worlds, organizations where coal companies pool their money and efforts to promote their industry and lobby our politicians.
Think of it sort of like a union for the coal companies.
I found all of this out by going to the West Virginia Coal Association’s website, the people behind Friends of Coal. I looked around until I found their membership roster and it wasn’t a bunch of coal miners and churches.
Look for yourself:
So if I’m not supporting coal miners, who or what am I supporting?
If you are supporting Friends of Coal, you are supporting the coal companies and their interests. At first, you might think that’s a good thing, but not necessarily. Here are a few reasons to reconsider your support.
1. Coal companies aren’t creating jobs, they are killing them.
2. Coal companies already have a lot of help.
So, for the coal industry, printing stickers and selling license plated is simply icing on the cake. The extra public support ensures the politicians they’ve spent years pouring money into are continually voted back into office.
3. Coal Companies fight for their profits, not for the coal miner’s well being.
In this article on the WV Legislature website, the West Virginia Coal Association is called out for its support of bill that would gut mine safety legislation in the state, and here, the Vice President of the West Virginia Coal Association speaks against MSHA’s new rules that could end black lung. Their reason for objecting? Costs to the industry.
4. Coal associations are working to make sure our kids will mine their coal.
The coal associations, and the companies that comprise them, are looking for the next generation of coal miners. It says so in the the Friends of Coal Mission Statement: “By working together, we can provide good jobs and benefits for future generations, which will keep our children and grandchildren close to home.”
They are influencing our children at early ages through company funded school programs such as “Coal in the Classroom” and Coal Education Resources and Development of Southern West Virginia (www.cedarswv.com) with lesson plans that neglect to tell about many coal mine disasters and their causes, the bloody labor struggles against company hired mercenaries, and so on. They have even rewritten the history of early mining and coal camp life to sound better than sharecropping and working in northern factories.
If you spend a little time following the links I provided throughout this page, you’ll find as I have, that beneath the surface of the license plates and stickers, the banners and billboards, it’s all about the coal companies doing what they’ve always done—protecting their interests while they ship billions of dollars of coal out of the mountains. In turn, the people of Appalachia are left with broken backs, choked lungs, and no decent economy to speak of (along with pain medication abuse running rampant among our youth, a lack of clean water and badly damaged road infrastructure.)
If we are to have any hope of raising our Appalachian home out of the crippling poverty and ill health that has plagued us for well over a century, we must start by realizing the cause and fighting to stop it.
I can tell you without any hesitation that supporting Friends of Coal is one of the worst things someone can do for coal miners and their families, and well, anyone else living in the coalfields.