|© Photo R. L. Mullins|
There are two resources in Appalachia that make men wealthy. Fossil Fuels and people. After all, no one has been able to design fully autonomous machines to produce coal. Without coal miners the coal industry has no way of retrieving their billions of tons of reserves. When they look to the long term future of their business they realize they must have an ample supply of young men (and in some cases women) willing to work in their mines.
Several months ago I read a quote on the Friends of Coal website that perturbed me and I have been preaching it to people ever since. For those of you who are just now tuning in, Friends of Coal is an organization developed and funded by the West Virginia Coal Association and other coal associations. Coal associations are groups of coal companies who combine their resources to campaign for and lobby politicians with the goal of gaining better legislation to help their profits. See my previous post, “Still a Friend of Coal?”
Friends of Coal isn’t just about gaining support from coal miners to help force their issues in Washington. It’s also about building a pride amongst Appalachian people to help insure they have a continued supply of coal miners. Here is the Friends of Coal Mission Statement. Pay particular attention to the last sentence, the quote I have preached about….
The Friends of Coal is dedicated to inform and educate West Virginia citizens about the coal industry and its vital role in the state's future. Our goal is to provide a united voice for an industry that has been and remains a critical economic contributor to West Virginia. By working together, we can provide good jobs and benefits for future generations, which will keep our children and grandchildren close to home.
When I first read this my jaw dropped. Could the coal associations really be saying what they are saying? It’s smooth, I’ll give them that. The coal industry is asking us to ally with them as constituents to force their agenda, so they can "provide good jobs", mining jobs, "for your children and grandchildren so they can stay close to home."
I began asking all of the older generation coal miners I could find what they thought about their kids going to work in the mines. The responses were often that of utter disappointment. “We wanted you kids to do well in school so you could go to college and avoid having to work in the mines,” my uncle told me when I read him the quote, “that way you could’ve had a chance at a better life.”