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Appalachian Coal Miners Deserve Better

November 6, 2019
By Ed Parsons - Editor , Tyler Star News

Some where along the line good always overcomes evil. With the world we live in, it seems as through we mostly hear of the bad things happening with very little effort put forth to relay the good to the masses. Recent news that another Coal Baron has filed for bankruptcy brings tears to the eyes of coal miners who spent years of hard work with the promise of a mere pension which averages around $600 per month as well as health care for life.

Those were earned benefits that were part of the wage and benefit package guaranteed to the miners. With the swipe of a pen it will all be wiped out. While many say it's the result of a challenging market, one must look at the days and hours miners spent away from home in the pits of the earth, keeping the energy on for America while risking their lives in the most dangerous job in the country.

Miners in Appalachia have long been accustomed to standing up for what they believe is a fair days pay for a hard days work. From the early days of mining with a pick and shovel to the modern times of longwall mining, very little has changed as far as coal mine dangers.

In fact, from my own experience, which is extensive, danger under ground has increased. Everyday that a miner enters the pits of hell he does so at a high risk of not returning to the surface. I think of miners everyday. I think of the struggles they have faced to overcome coal dust disease (known as Black Lung). Of the risk of injuries from small scrapes and bruises to lost limbs and even death. And I've seen and experinced it all.

Lets be clear about one thing! There has long been a misconception concerning coal miners wages and benefits. Their benefit package was never extravagant. It never was the expense which bankrupted companies.They have never been and never will be at the top of industries pay scale.

In fact in 1973 an under ground minor was paid a mere $37.50 per day. After a 30 day period it jumped to $42.50 which averaged out to just a little over $5.00 per hour. Dust was thick and noise from mining was loud. The small light on their hard hat provided little light to see. But, it all seemed worth it knowing and believing they had a lifetime job with a guaranteed pension, and health care for their sacrifice.

Somewhere deep down though there was this feeling of distrust. Most miners say it came about as a result of always seeing production come before safety.

However, miners were deserving of every penny they made and every benefit they were promised. For anyone who has never been 1200 feet underground and several miles back you wouldn't understand.

In 1978 miners obtained the best contract in their history. After a contract strike that lingered for 108 days miners agreed to return to work for a top scale pay increase to $13.75 per hour. They agreed to return to work in exchange for the higher wage, plus a pension benefit and health care plan. Accordingly the total package benefit amounted to approximately $25 on the hour.

Mining disasters have played a major part in the decisions many men and women have made to become coal miners. Is it worth the risk? Will I make it another day? Will I see my kids and family again? After discussing it with family members and friends, many miners chose the profession based on job security, a steady but not huge pay check, vacation time, a promised and contractually agreed to pension, and promised health care for life for theirself and their spouses.

Nothing is more disgusting than exploiting those in your employ. To selfishly use what belongs to someone else and unfairly take what doesn't belong to you or use a situation to meet your own needs is exactly what has happened to the miners pension and health funds.

And for those who think it is a good thing, remember Social Security is just the same. A promised benefit that you paid into, with the trust the U.S Government would wisely use it in your favor.

You see where that has got us, the two are pretty much the same. While our government has borrowed and unwisely spent the money you and your employer paid for your retirement.

Coal Companies and many other companies have followed suit to leave the working man hanging by a thread.

As was published last week in the local news.

Tens of thousands of good men and women who worked hard all their lives, need action on the federal level as their time is running out. They have been exploited by another big ponzi scheme.

 
 
 

 

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