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Unions hold annual Labor Day rally in Racine

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Sam Owens Community labor union activist and songwriter Elaine Purkey, left, sings for the crowd alongside Mike Wilson, right, during the United Mine Workers of America Labor Day Celebration at John Slack Memorial Park in Racine on Monday. Purkey grew up in Lincoln County and has traveled all around the country to sing for labor unions.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Sam Owens
Community labor union activist and songwriter Elaine Purkey, left, sings for the crowd alongside Mike Wilson, right, during the United Mine Workers of America Labor Day Celebration at John Slack Memorial Park in Racine on Monday. Purkey grew up in Lincoln County and has traveled all around the country to sing for labor unions.

RACINE, W.Va. — The line of people stretched back 30 to 40 feet as they waited for a hefty helping of the slow-roasted pig, a ladle of barbecue sauce and a scoop of coleslaw.

The sun beat down on the crowd of more than 100 people as they took cover under the large white tent to eat their meals and listen to the twang of the steel guitar and the rhythmic lyrics of the folk singers on stage.

But while they may have come for the pork, they stayed for the company and to celebrate the successes of organized labor in the United States over the past 125 years.

On Monday, the United Mine Workers of America held its 77th annual Labor Day celebration at the John Slack Memorial Park in Racine.

Throughout the park, active and retired union miners from across West Virginia — along with some from Kentucky — congregated to discuss the weather, West Virginia University football and to reflect on their work in the coal mines of Appalachia. Over half the men and women in the crowd proudly wore camouflage hats and shirts with the UMWA logo plastered on them.

While the event was meant to celebrate what the UMWA and other labor unions have provided to their members and families, the picnic was also used as a political rally to raise awareness of state and federal policies that are affecting union membership throughout the country.

Numerous Democratic politicians and representatives from their offices turned out to show their support for union miners and organized labor in West Virginia, including gubernatorial candidate Jeff Kessler and staff from Sen. Joe Manchin’s office and Jim Justice’s campaign…

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