Coal workers face uncertain future with Biden’s infrastructure plan
WHEELING, WV – It is a resource that cannot be measured solely by the power it produces.
“Coal means everything to this part of the country,” coal miner Matt Huonker said.
“Without the coal mines in this area, there wouldn’t be an Ohio Valley, I don’t think so,” coal miner Michael Knight said.
In some parts of America, families are fueled by coal. It has been this way for generations.
“You are a coal miner or you are not,” said Rick Altman of the United Mine Workers of America.
What it takes to mine coal is something that only those who pass beneath the surface, day in and day out, really understand.
“What we do every day is not for everyone, not everyone can do it, and it takes a special person to do what we do,” Huonker said.
Coal and mining define places like those around Wheeling, West Virginia, but it’s an industry that has lost more than half of its jobs in the past decade as America scoured it. energy elsewhere, according to UMWA.
“It’s not a good industry right now. There is a war on coal whether people want to say it or not,” Huonker said.
Now, as President Joe Biden pushes for a more than $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan, with billions earmarked for green energy, coal industry players are worried about what that might mean for the future of their jobs.
“Listen, we all want clean water and clean air, but there are ways to do it, and I don’t believe in destroying good paying jobs with good health care, I don’t think so. not that we researched, the government looked for other avenues to be able to take it, ”Altman said.
UMWA backed Biden’s green energy plans with a promise that people like coal miners will keep their jobs, but a promise can only mean so much to Altman.
“Where’s the plan other than, you know, you say it’s gonna be, well show me black and white that people are committed, not just the government but manufacturers and companies are committed to re-educating and restructuring. this country, ”he said.
This isn’t the first time the people of West Virginia have heard political promises to save the coal country.
“It’s easy to talk, I’m doing this, but show me what you’re going to do, tell me who’s coming, and we haven’t seen this yet,” Altman said.
The union wants to see a national training program to help underprivileged minors find other jobs and tuition to go back to school. But the change, while perhaps inevitable for the coal industry, will not be easy for some miners like Huonker to embrace.
“No, I don’t want to change careers. I like what I do. I don’t want to change careers at all, ”he said.
It’s unclear what the future holds for places like West Virginia and its communities that have long relied on a resource America relies less on.
But whatever the plan, whatever the political promises, these charcoal burners want to make sure they aren’t left behind.
“We feed this country. We do it safely, we do it efficiently and all we ask is that we put money in to keep everyone working, ”said Altman.