Opinion

Letter to the Editor: United for Coal is now Citizens for Coal

To the Editor:
I am pleased and saddened to announce that United for Coal is now Citizens for Coal. As president of Citizens for Coal for the past six years, I have watched the hard work of Allen Gibson, Allen Black and the rest of the people who have put so much work into developing United for Coal in an effort to defend coal jobs in eastern Kentucky and across the nation.

Due to family health concerns, United for Coal Founder and President Allen Gibson recently reached out to me, asking me to take over his organization. Allen is the beating heart of United for Coal and it is my hope that in some small way I (we) can lift the burden from his shoulders and carry on his good work.  Make no mistake about it, Allen is irreplaceable and will maintain a role of his choosing in the new combined organization.

First, a little about myself…

I am a UMWA retiree. I worked 35 years in the coal mines of West Virginia, both as an underground miner and as a surface miner. During that time I was and am proud to carry the banner of the United Mine Workers of America. I have served as a local and district official. I have stood on picket lines, been arrested too many times to talk about, led protests marches in Washington and Charleston and testified before Congress. Just three weeks ago, I took four buses to Pittsburgh for a rally opposing the EPA’s job-killing GHG rules.

About six year ago, I founded Citizens for Coal. I did so because I believed that coal was coming under attack by this administration and our miners would soon face the toughest fight they had ever fought just to keep their jobs. I prayed I was wrong but as time has passed, it is clear that I was right. Since its founding, our organization has done everything possible to take the fight to the doorsteps of those responsible – the Obama White House, the EPA and the halls of Congress.  We have also tried to step up and help those miners and their families who have lost their jobs. Last year our Miners’ Relief Drive was able to help hundreds of mining families meet their basic needs and have some joy for Christmas. We did a lot but not enough and this year the need is even greater.

I do not take a salary as president of Citizens for Coal. The staff of our organization is volunteer and we are motivated by a sense of brotherhood – a sense of family. We are all part of the coal mining family, no matter whether you are union or non-union, labor or management, working miner or vendor.  Our organization is proud to include both union and non-union miners because as a former UMWA official, I know the best way to gain new members is to show them the value of being a member and not to scream and yell at them. When our union was founded it was done by the virtue of leading by example. Sometimes I think this is a lesson we need to relearn.

Now, Kentucky is hurting, West Virginia is hurting, southwestern Virginia is hurting. Ladies and gentlemen, America is hurting. Layoffs, the daily stress of the uncertainty whether you will have a job tomorrow, is literally killing people. Sometimes it seems like you facing this all alone and that is probably the biggest problem our people face – the sense of standing alone against the world.  And that is probably the biggest problem our people face – the sense of standing alone against the world.

You are NOT alone. We are with you. We will do whatever we can to protect your (our) jobs and our way of life. We want you to know that there are people who care. We want you to know that there are people who you can turn to and count on.

Over the next few months we will be building our team – a team comprised of representatives from West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. We want to make sure that all see themselves as equal parties in this effort because we stand stronger together.

Ultimately we want to build this group across the country. Allen has made a terrific start and we want to continue that effort.

If you want to become part of our leadership team, please contact me at [email protected]

Roger Horton,

president United/Citizens for Coal

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