Phil Smith, spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America(UMWA), spent some time with us discussing issues affecting his members. This was right on the heels of Patriot Coal Company announcing it was filing for bankruptcy protection. Patriot is one of the largest producers of coal in the US and is one of the largest employers of UMWA members. Patriot is the first major casualty in President Obama's war on coal.
UMWA has a membership of 100,000 and is affiliated with the AFL/CIO. They have a rich history in fighting for the protection of workers health and safety, in a dangerous occupation. They have brought dignity and honorable wages to generations of workers who supply our country with its main source for electrical energy.
Irish immigrants were key in the founding of UMWA. They foreshadowed it when they introduced to the mid 1800 coal fields, the Molly Maguire’s, a secret society brought over from Ireland. The Molly Maguire’s fought back with their own form of vengeance against the brutal tactics imposed on them by industrialists. These industrialists had little respect for the danger & miserable working conditions they imposed on the miners.
Today’s UMWA, is a result of thousands of men and women who lost their lives giving America the energy it needed and fighting every step of the way for rights of the working person in a dangerous industry.
But now UMWA and the coal industry are facing the most formidable threat they have ever had to face. It is not mine safety, workers rights, wages, or supply and demand issues. The threat is from the environmental industry and President Obama's EPA decreeing intolerable regulations designed to kill the industry.
Recently UMWA President Cecil Roberts declared that Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA, shot the coal industry just as surely as the Navy SEALS shot Osama Bin Laden. With new "greenhouse gas" emissions regulations “this rule is an all-out, in my opinion, decision by the EPA that we’re never going to have another coal-fired facility in the United States that’s constructed,” Roberts said.
The union chief used colorful language to underscore his point, but that point has been driven home as the assault on coal, as well as other forms of "fossil energy” continues unabated.
I asked Mr. Smith how many coal related jobs have been lost due to EPA regulations before the Patriot announcement. He replied "about 1,500 have been lost this year, but those losses are also due to weather conditions and a glut of natural gas". "But the real losses will come as EPA regulations start to clamp down on our industry in the near future"
He went on to explain, "These are high paying jobs that the rural regions of West Virginia and Pennsylvania rely on for their economies." Some miners make as much as 100,000 per year with overtime and they have good benefits as well." "If the coal mining industry is shut down, these areas will be devastated economically and will cause great socioeconomic upheaval, not witnessed before."
Environmentalists, previously financed by the gas industry and now Mayor Bloomberg, are working hard to destroy the coal mining industry. They have callously said the areas can transform themselves into sightseeing regions and amusement parks, like the Hatfield and McCoy theme park. But it looks like environmentalists don't care about the people they crush under their boot and are willing to sacrifice good high paying jobs for food stamps.
Environmental activists living off of trust funds, like Robert Kennedy Jr., don’t know what it’s like to survive on a paycheck to earn a living.
As the US coal industry is under assault, coal companies have found overseas markets eager for our product. We are exporting large amounts of coal to Asia and Europe as their economies search for reliable cheap energy. Germany is importing coal from the US as they are finding solar is the path to bankruptcy.
They are fearful of nuclear energy after Japan suffered damage to its nuclear reactors from the tsunami, so coal is filling their energy deficit.
But environmentalists are even trying to stop exporting of coal from our nations seaports. As if, not wounding the industry is enough, they try to kick it while it's down. I asked Phil what UMWA is prepared to do about this and he said: "It would be a very difficult time for environmentalists to try and block the commerce of a legal product." I would take from the determination in his voice and the emphasis on the legality of commerce in the US, that his organization and the industry itself are ready to battle over this.
I then went on to ask him if other unions would be swayed to support the coal industry as it is attacked by environmentalists trying to block the coal being exported from the US. He said: "I can't speak for other unions, but I don't think Longshoremen or Teamsters want to give up their gainful employment by not loading up coal into trains and onto ships."
In the meantime the battle rages on Capitol Hill and in the media, as legislation and regulations are proposed that will determine our energy future.
There is great debate over the existence of man caused climate change, which is the fuel behind the war on our fossil energy resources and the impetus behind renewable/green energy.
32,000 scientists signed a document that disagreed with the scientific premise behind man caused global warming. With that much dissension against the "science" responsible for us shifting away from our reliable cheap energy to hugely expensive, unproven technology,.....you would think calmer heads would prevail before making precipitous decisions regarding our nation’s energy future.