Layoffs Hit the Eastern Coalfields

[imgbelt img=coal_train.jpeg]Evidently coalminers’ wives have a lot more faith in God than they do their Congressmen or the coal operators.


read in the paper what Tiffany Williams, a waitress in Cowen, said: “Everyone is going to move. They’ll leave. The place will be even more run-down than it already is.” 

People do not realize how ingrained this coal business is. Miners are miners. That’s what they know how to do, what they love to do. They live in the mountains where the rich coal is buried. Moving away for some is like a funeral procession.

Whether my cousin’s worries over layoffs at her husband’s mines are based in fact or fiction remains to be seen. Many prayers will be offered up to save miners’ jobs during and after church services. 

It’s a fact, however, that Alpha Natural Resources notified miners at mines in West Virginia and Kentucky in late June that they can expect layoffs.  Mines at Hatfield and Superior in Logan County will close, affecting approximately 100 jobs. Stirrat preparation plant will close, according to Ted Pile, VP of communications for Alpha. Reassignments will be offered to a little more than half of the miners.

At the same time, Arch Mineral and Consol also said they would be closing mines in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, laying off 750 miners. The newspaper in Hazard, Kentucky, reports that 1,500 mine jobs have been lost locally since December. 

When miners run scared, bad things happen. They accept a job too far away from home for safe driving. They agree to 12-hour shifts, working a dangerous job, exhausted. Operating dangerous mining equipment on a few hours’ sleep is an accident waiting to happen. 

Miners accept lower paying jobs and jobs that expose them to coal dust levels above the safe limit, resulting in black lung. Miners vie for positions, causing a breakdown in the brotherhood of miners. Miners feel they have few choices.

Somewhere in West Virginia a coalminer’s wife is talking to God, asking that her husband have the privilege of working in one of this country’s most dangerous, underpaid and least appreciated jobs —to mine the coal that keeps your lights on.

Betty Dotson-Lewis is a West Virginia writer and regular Daily Yonder contributor.